Mr. Rogers’ Words of Enduring Love Help Shine a Light on Pittsburgh’s Response to Tragedy

After synagogue shooting, GSD&M created a touching tribute

Pittsburgh-born senior copywriter Alex DiBucci was moved to create the PSA when her home city came together after a mass shooting. GSD&M
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All of us who grew up watching Fred Rogers liked to imagine living in his neighborhood, but residents of Squirrel Hill, Pa., didn’t have to pretend. They literally lived in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

Rogers moved to the Pittsburgh neighborhood in the 1960s and long maintained his connection to the community, even choosing to spend his final days there before passing away in 2003.

Tragically, the neighborhood drew global attention in October 2018 as the site of a horrifying act of hatred: the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue that left seven people wounded and 11 dead.

True to Mr. Rogers’ spirit, though, the community—with support from around the world—responded with love, mutual support and messages of tolerance and acceptance. Now, a video created by agency GSD&M in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Fred Rogers Productions is honoring that spirit of neighborly love, with Mr. Rogers’ own words narrating the PSA.

Although GSD&M is an Austin-based agency, the Pittsburgh video was a passion project for senior writer Alex DiBucci and her creative partner, senior art director Kate Griffiths.

“I grew up in Pittsburgh, so the tragedy hit me pretty hard,” DiBucci says. “Pittsburgh is a close-knit community of terrible-towel waving, blue-collar people with big hearts and big love for our town. People are extremely supportive and tolerant of one another, which is why this shooting pulled the rug out from under us. Pittsburgh was hurting, so my partner Kate and I knew we had to do something to rally the town.”

The team hopes its video will both celebrate Pittsburgh’s response and also share an example of how communities can come together after disasters.

“In the days and weeks following the shooting, we were truly inspired by how the city came together. The ‘city of neighborhoods’ truly lived up to its name,” DiBucci says. “People put their religious and political differences aside to support and lift up the Jewish community. Kate and I saw a need to shed light on this very different side of the massacre. Pittsburgh set a powerful example we could all learn from. An example our hometown hero, Mr. Rogers, would’ve been proud of. He taught us how to be a good neighbor long ago and Pittsburgh embodied that. We needed to be reminded of that lesson now more than ever.”

The creatives found an ideal partner in the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, which agreed to share the content on its social channels.

“In a country where shootings are commonplace, in a time when we’re more divided than ever, Pittsburgh reminded us of what really matters: that at the end of the day, we’re more alike than we are different,” Griffiths says. “We are all human. We are all neighbors.”

Agency: GSD&M
Spot Title: “We Are All Neighbors”
Chief Creative Officer: Jay Russell
Senior Art Director: Kate Griffiths
Senior Writer: Alex DiBucci
Executive Producer: Jack Epsteen
Producer: Dylan Heimbrock and Lee Nichnowitz
Account Service: David Rockwood & Kyla Novell
Business Affairs Manager: Lindsay Wakabayashi, Lewis Caton and Karen Gatewood

Partners: Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh & Fred Rogers Productions

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."