Last week, I accompanied several Hawaii participants from both the public and private sectors to the annual RailVolution conference, which was held this year in Pittsburgh.

Having moved to Pittsburgh in 1980 upon completion of my undergraduate studies and having lived there for more than 15 years and adopted the city as my “hometown,” I was very proud to show my colleagues around and to provide a little bit of the Pittsburgh story.

And what a story it is. Pittsburgh is a city whose glass and steel and hard-working people built every major city in America, and whose inventions in electricity and transportation powered and moved the world. Pittsburgh is a city of tough people who solved the world’s problems.

In the process, however, they created severe pollution and a terrible environmental problem of their own.

Pittsburgh has a storied past and a bright future, but today it is a city of grief.

Flickr: 6SN7

Through the power of a public-private partnership, Pittsburgh residents and industries solved the pollution problem too. Pittsburgh is a city that nearly died with the loss of industry, but one which remade itself into a thriving center of education, health care and high technology — the shining and picturesque city it is today (even though the weather may not be the greatest).

I believe that all of the Hawaii participants, most of whom had never been to Pittsburgh before or at least recently, came away impressed, and left last Thursday with a warm feeling for the city. No one could have imagined the horror that would befall the city just two days later.

We must, as one people, as Americans, solve this violence in our country.

I lived in the community of Squirrel Hill and the adjoining neighborhood of Shadyside. Squirrel Hill is a wonderful, vibrant and friendly place, the center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish life. It is also a home for many faiths and cultures, all living peacefully together. The residents never deserved last Saturday’s fate. This is Mister Rogers’ actual neighborhood, after all. So, for me, this is all very personal and very upsetting.

We cannot tolerate such atrocities, whether they be school shootings, church, synagogue or mosque shootings, concert or nightclub shootings. We cannot tolerate targeting anyone’s identity or how one chooses to worship. We are all in this together and we must, as one people, as Americans, solve this violence in our country.

We in Hawaii, I truly believe, know better, especially with our aloha spirit and emphasis on ohana. Let’s do our best to make sure such these senseless and cowardly acts of violence never happen here. And perhaps we can offer solutions beyond Hawaii too.

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