Firefighter brings light to shooting sites with random acts of kindness
Tommy Maher was inspired to bring hope to trauma survivors after experiencing the kindness of others when his department lost a colleague on 9/11
By Megan Guza
PITTSBURGH — Each city brings a new number, a new hashtag, and a search for brightness in tragedy.
Honor58 in Las Vegas.
Honor17 in Parkland, Fl.
Honor10 in Santa Fe, Texas.
Now, in Pittsburgh, Tommy Maher has brought Honor11.
A Long Island firefighter, Maher was in New York City on 9/11. His firehouse lost one of its own in the attack, but Maher said the next day gave him hope.
“The very next day, Sept. 12, was like the greatest day, because everyone was willing to do anything for anybody,” he said. “That really stuck with me, and it really touched me, and I never forgot that. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could try to implement that on a daily basis?”
When a gunman killed 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, Maher felt compelled to recreate that hope. He drove his van from Long Island to Las Vegas and, from there, decided to travel to the hometown of each of the victims and do random acts of kindness in their name.
Eighteen days and 9,500 miles later, he’d done it. He documented the journey on social media with the hashtag Honor 58 and a Facebook page of the same name. Along the way, he met Karla Young, of Alabama, who also felt compelled to go to Las Vegas in the wake of the tragedy there.
“I went because I’m a trauma survivor, and I like to go into communities, if possible, and educate about post-traumatic stress disorder,” Young said. “God just kind of put us together in Vegas, and we just tag team.”
Since then, they’ve spent their time going to communities affected by disaster. They buy lunch for hospital workers, pay random tickets at dry cleaners, tip $100 to a waitress, give money to the homeless, or any number of random acts of kindness.
Now, they’re in Pittsburgh, two weeks after Robert Bowers allegedly opened fire in the Tree of Life synagogue and killed 11 people.
Maher said when they arrived at the memorial outside the synagogue Sunday morning, they met the wife of a rabbi. She said it would be nice if there were chairs near the piles of flowers, signs, candles and trinkets.
The pair came back later with camp chairs, each with two small cards attached: “Please accept this Random Act of Kindness in honor of …,” along with the name of one of the victims.
Each act of kindness comes with a similar card and the reminder to pay it forward.
“You can pay it forward with or without money,” Young said.
That can include just taking the time to understand each other, Maher said.
“What you think is right and what I think is right can be different,” he said. “What you think is wrong and what I think is wrong can be different. The wisdom is in between there.”
Young added: “We don’t have to have uniformity – it’s about unity and charity, and charity means love.”
Soon, they’ll head to Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Copyright 2018 The Tribune-Review