In the middle of #SOTU, Congress sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to 81-year-old survivor of Tree of Life shootings

There was plenty of sharp-elbowed partisanship in President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

But in the middle of it, Republicans and Democrats took a moment to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to an 81-year-old survivor of last fall’s deadly shootings at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

Judah Samet, who was seated in the House gallery, arrived at the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood just as the accused gunman opened fire, Trump told the crowd.

“But not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall — more than seven decades ago, he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps,” Trump said. “Today is Judah’s 81st birthday.”

Seconds later, the assembled legislators began singing to Samet, a rare moment of levity in a speech punctuated by Trump’s dire warnings of murder and mayhem at America’s southern border with Mexico.

Trump continued: “Judah says he can still remember the exact moment, nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train, and told they were going to another camp.  Suddenly the train screeched to a halt.  A soldier appeared.  Judah’s family braced for the worst.  Then, his father cried out with joy:  ‘It’s the Americans.'”

Trump also paid tribute to Pittsburgh SWAT Officer Timothy Matson, who “raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times chasing down the killer.  Timothy has just had his 12th surgery — but he made the trip to be here with us tonight.  Officer Matson:  we are forever grateful for your courage in the face of evil.”

Matson, who was also seated in the gallery, rose to his feet for applause.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press

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