Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 29, 2018 Guest: Erika Strassburger; John Meacham; Michael Avedon
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: I`m back from my sick leave, Rachel. I promise it won`t happen again.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well -- yes.
O`DONNELL: And Rachel, on Saturday I was one of the thousands and thousands of people around the country who was frantically trying to get in touch with friends in Pittsburgh, including a lifelong friend of mine who lives right in the neighborhood where the shooting took place. A Jewish family. I was very worried that he or his wife or children could possibly have been there. And luckily they weren`t.
And this is -- this is what happens on a mass murder day in America. There`s those worried phone calls, those e-mails, those texts, the waiting. Waiting for a reply, to find out --
O`DONNELL: -- are your friends or are your loved ones involved. It was another one of those days.
MADDOW: Yes, Susan and I on Saturday were driving up to New Hampshire to go spend some time with her mom and listening to the news radio the whole time up there. And we`re just -- both of us just, you know, weeping the whole time that we`re driving. And we arrived and it`s like, boy, it`s really great to be with family and really great to see you all, but you do it with this hole in your heart knowing that you`re appreciating it all the more because of the loss that you`re having those feelings about.
O`DONNELL: Another day in the mass murder history of America.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Welcome back.
O`DONNELL: The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was established in 1881, 50 blocks south of right here, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood. This photograph shows immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1951 under the guidance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS.
And after 137 years of service first to Jewish immigrants and then to refugees from around the world without regard to their religious affiliation, a 46-year-old man from western Pennsylvania decided it was time to stop HIAS in its tracks.
His last social media posting says: HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can`t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I`m going in.
And so, he went in with an assault rifle and three handguns. He went in, in to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, a congregation that was founded in 1864.
He didn`t kill the baby boy who was there for his bris. He didn`t kill the boy`s parents. He killed 11 other people in the synagogue, all Jews, and he shot and wounded four police officers before he surrendered. He was there to stop an invasion, an invasion that the president of the United States has been yelling about at political rallies and lying about.
What the president and our latest mass murderer call an invasion is group of possibly 5,000 refugees walking in the direction of the most heavily armed military power in the history of the world. They are walking together for their mutual safety, many of the children in that march are barefoot. Many of the women are mothers walking with their children or carrying their children. Many are fathers.
Donald Trump wants you to be afraid of every one of those people. Donald Trump wants you to believe that those people are capable of mounting an invasion against the most mightily defended country in the history of the world. And it worked.
It worked with a 46-year-old man living alone in western Pennsylvania, in that part of Pennsylvania that presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 described this way.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: The jobs have been gone out for 25 years and nothing`s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. And it`s not surprising then they get bit, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren`t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Barack Obama was condemned by Republicans for saying that, condemned for years for saying that.
And on Saturday, a man who fit that description entered a synagogue clinging to his guns, filled with anti-immigrant sentiment and decided to stop what the president of the United States now calls an invasion by murdering 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. Someone in the congregation described Rose Mallinger as royalty at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Melvin Wax was 88 years old. He was leaving the synagogue when he was murdered.
Bernice Simon and her husband Sylvan were 84 and 86 years old. They died together on Saturday at the hands of gunman who was trying to stop an invasion.
Joyce Feinberg was 75 years old. She prayed at the synagogue every day. She said her last prayer on Saturday.
Daniel Stein was 71. He was killed in the same room where his grandson`s bris was held earlier this year.
Irving Younger was 69 years old. A friend said, quote, he was a guy that when you walked in, he was the first person you would meet and would help you find a seat.
Jerry Rabinowitz was 66 years old, he was a doctor. He ran toward the sound of the gunfire to try and help the wounded. He lost his life trying to save life.
Richard Gottfried was 65 years old. He was a dentist who was generous about serving patients who didn`t have dental insurance. He and his wife had just celebrated their anniversary and were planning to retire.
Two brothers were murdered, David Rosenthal and Cecil Rosenthal. A member of the synagogue said, quote, they were like the ambassadors because they were always there and they will always be there in our hearts.
There was also a married couple who were in the -- in the synagogue who were killed. They died together.
They all had to die. They all had to die because they were supporting an invasion. That`s what their murderer believed. That is why he killed them. He put it in writing.
Many of President Trump`s allies have been telling that mass murderer and everyone else in the country that Jews are funding the long walk of the refugees in Central America and that the president and the mass murderer call that an invasion. Fox News, which is owned and operated by an Australian immigrant to this country, has been relentlessly pushing the invasion rhetoric and imagery and relentlessly driving that into the head of the Saturday`s mass murderer.
And Fox News commentators are always quick to blame George Soros for everything, including funding what they call the invasion. They`re not randomly choosing George Soros to take the blame for all the evils of the world. George Soros is Jewish. And everyone who hates George Soros knows he is Jewish.
George Soros was the first to receive a pipe bomb in the mail from the rabid Trump supporter who is now charged with federal crimes for threatening and mailing explosive devices to Democrats and critics of Donald Trump. And after the news broke a bomb being sent to George Soros by the Republican Party launched a television ad attacking George Soros, calling him a radical who finances Democratic campaigns. And yes, George Soros does contribute to Democratic campaigns.
Some of us remember a country where you could do that and not expect a pipe bomb in the mail. Donald Trump`s first reaction to our latest mass murder was, of course, to blame the victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is case where if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. So this would be a case for if there was an armed guard inside the temple they would have been able to stop him. Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Nobody killed, if they just had one armed guard. That`s all they needed.
So, it must be the rabbi`s fault that there was no armed guard. The president says the armed guard who was not expecting a mass murderer could have stopped the mass murderer. But he doesn`t explain why when dozens of police officers rushed to the scene knowing there was an active shooter, four of those prepared and ready police officers still got shot. And none of the police forces who responded were able to kill the murderer.
Donald Trump`s supporters believe the fantasy. They must. It is impossible to support Donald Trump without fantasy. The fantasy of the one armed guard, the fantasy of the invasion, the invasion of a synagogue by a mass murderer on Saturday was a reaction to the lies that Donald Trump and Fox News and Republicans have been telling about what they call the invasion approaching our southern border.
Adam Serwer in "The Atlantic" writes: The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election. There is no political gesture, no public statement and no alteration in rhetoric or behavior that will change this fact. The shooter might have found a different reason to act on a different day, but he chose to act on Saturday. And he apparently chose to act in response to a political fiction that the president himself chose to spread and that his followers chose to amplify.
So, who`s next? Who will be the next mass murderer who types on social media, "I`m going in", before he goes in to murder everyone in sight because he believes a lie told by the president of the United States? Who will be next?
We don`t know, but we do know that America`s next mass murderer just like Saturday`s mass murderer will be the best equipped mass murderer he can be because Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress make sure that American mass murderers are the best equipped mass murderers in the world. They follow the orders of the National Rifle Association to make sure there are no more restrictions on the weapons of mass murderer that are available over-the-counter in the United States, that there are no more restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines that you can attach to those weapons of mass murder.
They make sure that there are no magazine -- there are no background checks at gun shows. They make sure there are no more restrictions on the purchase of ammunition, including the amounts of ammunition. They make sure -- they will always make sure that when a mass murderer comes into your synagogue or your church or your movie theater or your shopping mall or your kindergarten, that that mass murderer will have the very best killing equipment in the world.
And those Republicans who make sure that those mass murderers are so well- equipped will continue to say things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Sarah, what`s it going to take to stop these killings from happening over and over and over again?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, I think if we had a good answer to that, I think everybody in the country would support it. If anybody knows the answer, I think certainly this administration would be all ears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump and the Republicans have no idea how to stop what happened on Saturday. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers who was in the synagogue and was able to protect some of his congregants from the mass murderer but lives with the regret and the pain that he was not able to protect them all has this suggestion for Donald Trump and the Republicans who have nothing to say about how to stop this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: It starts with speech.
MYERS: Words of hate are unwelcome in Pittsburgh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We will have local reaction from Pittsburgh to the tragedy of the tree of life and Donald Trump`s visit to Pittsburgh tomorrow. And they were six people wounded in the shooting at the synagogue. They join the thousands and thousands of gunshot wound survivors of American mass murders.
A new cover story in "New York Magazine" tells what it is like to be shot by a mass murderer and survive. Anthony Burgess (ph) shows his wounds on the cover of a magazine in a photograph by Michael Avedon (ph). Anthony Burgess saved lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when he barricaded the door of a classroom and was shot in the back.
Anthony Burgess says I was in the hospital for like two months. I wasn`t bored. The pain wouldn`t let me get distracted. It was all over my body, not just where I`d been shot. Imagined that someone stabbed you with a knife and wouldn`t take it out, would just push it in.
Michael Avedon will join us with what he learned from the surviving members of America`s mass murderers.
And as we go to a break now, we listen to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers offering a Hebrew prayer for the dead whose lives were taken by the mass murderer who invaded his synagogue.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: On Saturday, after the mass murder at the Tree of Life synagogue, Trump actually said he`d consider canceling his rally appearance that day because he had a bad hair day. Seriously.
Here is Donald Trump on Saturday after the massacre at the Tree of Life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, somebody just said your hair looks different today. I said, well, I was standing under the wing of Air Force One doing a news conference early this morning, a very unfortunate news conference. And the wind was blowing it and the rain, and I was soaking wet. And that`s what I ended up with today. And I said, well, at least you know it`s mine. I said maybe I should cancel this arrangement because I have a bad hair day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Eleven dead, four wounded. He`s worried about the bad hair day. That`s what he`s talking about to his followers.
Joining our discussion now, David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic", Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor, and John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus."
And, David, we are sitting Shiva tonight, I do not presume to guide this discussion. I just want you to as we would sitting Shiva share with us the feelings that you have about this tonight.
DAVID FRUMP, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: I would stress one thing beyond the politics. The would-be mail bomber tried to kill people and he hurt nobody. The shooter went in to kill, he killed 11. Making a bomb is hard, firing a gun is pretty easy. And if you have enough bullets, even if you`re a bad shot, killing is pretty easy.
If people had to use instruments, we`re always going to have deranged people and unfortunately we`re always going to have irresponsible politicians. But if people had to use difficult instruments to kill, we would save a lot of lives.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, your feelings tonight?
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a mixture of deep, deep sadness and hope. And the reason I have hope is because Donald Trump is such a inadequate president, such a small, empty man, we tend to lose track of the fact that he`s not the face of America. In Pittsburgh in those clips that you were showing, there was an enormous gathering of interfaith leaders.
In my synagogue in northern Virginia, 250 people showed up on a Sunday night, representatives of the Muslim community showed up as well.
America is not Donald Trump. He is reflective of a narrow group of people, including crazies who will act upon his suggestion. But he is not reflective of America at large.
What I see, however, is an utter abdication of responsibility, of conscience by Republicans who could at any time cut him off, rebuke him. But they don`t, they choose not. And that makes them enablers, makes them complicit, makes them also morally responsible for the consequences of his actions and his words.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann?
JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: Well, so much has been said. You know, I think that the thing that -- to your thing about the bad hair, to me, a lot of his behavior beyond obviously not doing all the things that we expect presidents to do, right, the notion he didn`t call the Obamas, the notion when it came to pipe bomber, it feeds into the Pittsburgh thing, which is that all of it is these are acts of hate, acts of political violence carried out in one realm, one set of his critics and one set against a bunch of innocent Jewish-Americans in a synagogue.
And in all of them, he basically wants to convey in some sense, none of this really matters to me very much. This does not weigh on me. There`s no gravity here.
So, he puts out official statements that condemns the atrocities and then he goes on. He has the rally. He doesn`t go down for a day like any other president would or two days or three days. That would have been a debate for the Obama White House or the Bush White House, how many days do we come off the trail?
O`DONNELL: There`s absolutely no presidential candidate who would continue campaigning as he did on the day of a mass murder like this.
HEILEMANN: I was with a senior Obama administration official last night who said that there was a text thread between previous Obama officials, Bush officials and Clinton officials all talking about what would have happened if this had been their White House and how all of them would have scrambled into the work and first question would have been we shut him down. And how long do we shut him down, what are the things we need to do to convey to people that we just understand the gravity of this.
And what the president does is the opposite of that. He does not just get the gravity or express the grace but he wants to send a message it seems to me to the people who perpetrate these acts, that it`s okay -- it`s fine with me. It`s okay, because if it was really serious, if it really affected him in some way, he took it seriously, he would not be kind out of there winking at them in the way he does with the thing about the hair, which is not just a thing about vanity and narcissism, but it is a way of kind of sloughing it all off and conveying it as a signal that`s not an explicit incite to hatred or violence which he does plenty of on his own, but an implicit kind of tolerance of it and like it`s all good with me.
O`DONNELL: So the hair point was his signaling to them don`t worry, nothing important to us happened today.
David Frum, on his point about what other presidents would have done, the president lied on Saturday when he said that the reason he wasn`t going to interpret his schedule is that the stock market opened the day after 9/11. That is lie. The stock market was closed for several days after 9/11.
But here he is continuing his political campaigning on the very same day and lying about the reason.
FRUM: That`s such a bizarre lie. I mean, do they not remember -- we were there -- the young people weren`t but those of us who were, the planes were grounded. We couldn`t get into New York.
And, you know, Donald Trump maybe he doesn`t care about human values, but I thought he cared about stocks and bonds. He would know the stock market was closed.
O`DONNELL: And, Jennifer Rubin, again to this point, no other president would ever have gone out onto a campaign trail after a mass murder like this.
RUBIN: And not only did he go out on the trail, he attacked the people who were sent bombs. He reiterated the caravan lie. He essentially spat on the graves of people because he was communicating to the rest of the country it doesn`t matter if I perpetrate hate, in fact, I`ll do it again and I don`t give a darn whether someone acts upon it or not because not my fault.
There is no human being I know of, let alone a politician who would do that. It`s not, I think, as John correctly says that he`s merely without feeling. We know that. And I think John`s right in pointing out that it`s also a way of committing -- of saying he`s not really affected by it all.
But it`s also another thing. It`s also the wink-wink, and the nod-nod to the people who commit heinous acts that they have not acted outside the bounds of civilized society, that he does not have a single bad thing to say about white nationalists. He does not -- there are very fine people who march in Charlottesville. He does not express any anger at them, any deep emotion. He is giving them license, and that is part of the message that is going out as well.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, John Heilemann, thank you interest joining us in this very difficult discussion tonight. I appreciate it.
We will go live to Pittsburgh for local reaction to Donald Trump`s visit tomorrow.
And later, an extraordinary cover story in "New York Magazine" showing what it is like to survive a mass murder after being shot with photographs by Michael Avedon. Here is one of those photographs. William Thomas, he was shot and paralyzed at age 18 at Randallstown High School in Maryland in 2004. And he said, I remember laying on the ground trying to figure out why I can`t get up. Me being a three sport athlete playing basketball, football, running track, used to being able to do whatever I want with my body.
O`DONNELL: Earlier today, the mayor of Pittsburgh had this message for the president. If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead. Shortly after that, the White House ignored the mayor and announced the president will go to Pittsburgh tomorrow before the Tree of Life Synagogue buries their dead.
Joining our discussion now Erika Strassburger, a member of the Pittsburgh City Council representing the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the Tree of Life Synagogue is located.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I`m very sorry for your loss and the community`s loss that we are having this discussion under these circumstances. What is your reaction to the president ignoring the mayor`s request that he wait until the dead could be buried before coming to Pittsburgh?
ERIKA STRASSBURGER, PITTSBURGH CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, thank you for your condolences and thank you for having me. My first and only responsibility is to my constituents. And frankly, I have heard loud and clear both by e-mail and by phone from my constituents today and yesterday asking that I do everything possible to keep the president from coming to Pittsburgh while we are burying our dead.
And I have to look out for them. And at the same time, I understand while that will add to the trauma of a lot of people, that ultimately it comes down to the wishes of the families and of the leaders of the three congregations of Tree of Life. I don`t know how they exactly feel about this but I do know where my constituents stand on this.
O`DONNELL: What do you think needs to happen in your community going forward?
STRASSBURGER: Well, right now we`re grieving. Between now and the end of the week, we are going to be attending funerals and we need to be there for each other. We need to take action in ways that are comforting and that heal.
Then we can start to think about action that we can take at the local, state and hopefully federal levels to make sure that we eradicate hate speech by leaders that allow perpetrators of hate crimes to feel emboldened and any other action that`s necessary that we are able to accomplish. We need to come together eventually for real action.
O`DONNELL: The White House press secretary said today that she and no one else at the White House could think of anything that could stop what happened on Saturday.
STRASSBURGER: Well, I can think of a lot of different things. For a start, we need leaders in this country to lead with love and compassion. I know it sounds cheesy in this day and age in our society, but that`s what needs to happen.
In fact, tomorrow at the city council meeting, I will be taking a pledge to eradicate hate from my words and actions and we need other leaders to do the same. If we can`t look to the president to do that, then let`s look to other elected and other thought and media leaders to do that. That is what has made it in this country. So that`s a start. We can all take action ourselves to do that.
And next, you know, sensible gun control. I know that we`re not talking about that yet at the local level, on the national level, but it`s far past time that we actually make some action here at least in the state of Pennsylvania, similar to what other states have done after terrible tragedies like this. Those are two things that I can think of.
O`DONNELL: Pittsburgh City Council Erika Strassburger, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate your time on this difficult night for you and your community. Thank you very much.
STRASSBURGER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the "New York Magazine" cover story on what it is like to be shot by a mass murderer but survive, what it means physically, emotionally.
And one of the stories you will hear and see in that magazine photographic story is Ashley Biaz who was shot in the thigh at age 15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And she said, "At the beach, I can`t wear my leg wrap. People look at me. It`s kind of like this happened to me. You can`t do anything about it, but you can stare all you want."
O`DONNELL: Today, one of the more prominent paid pathological liars on the White House payroll blamed what she called the anti-religiosity of late- night comedians for the mass murderer at the Tree of Life Synagogue. She apparently does not know that Stephen Colbert is a faithful Catholic and she apparently does not know about the anti-religiosity expressed by the Trump administration today.
Now, when you watch this video, that was today, you will see how you can get grabbed by the police if you quote Jesus Christ to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR WILL GREEN: I was naked and you did not clothe me. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for your comments and --
GREEN: I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Brother Jeff, as a fellow United Methodist, I call upon you to repent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He did not repent. That was Pastor Will Green who was one of two pastors removed from that room by police when they tried to bring religion into that room to Jeff Sessions.
Joining us now is John Meacham, presidential historian, and an MSNBC contributor.
And John, I would just like to get your reaction to what we`ve been through since Saturday through tonight.
JOHN MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we`re in one of the darker periods of a dark era, unquestionably. My own view is that to some extent we need to put the presidency in a kind of cultural time-out, if we possibly can, to the extent to which we can. The president has no interest in what President Roosevelt called the presidency as a place, preeminently a place of moral leadership.
We are in an era where the climate is so toxic and so sulfurous that I worry as do you, as do so many people that we are at the beginning of something and not the end of something. And so I think explanations like that somehow this is about anti-religiosity, it is about anti-American, it`s about anti-Semitism, it`s about hate. But to suggest that somehow or another there`s a hostility in religion in the public square and therefore that is leading to these kinds of unspeakable acts of violence seems to be beneath comment really.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to some of what Donald Trump had to say on Saturday after the massacre at the Synagogue and show how it didn`t change anything about his campaign style and his individual targeting of people, the kind of individual targeting that has led to the delivery of bombs. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m going to tone it down just a little bit. Is that OK?
TRUMP: You`re from Illinois. I had a feeling you might say that. Now, I did a little tiny bit of research and Mike`s opponent Brandon Kelly is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and of course Maxine Waters. They would say he is the greatest Conservative of all-time, but because his name is Donald Trump, you have the haters and they continue to hate. These are foolish and very stupid people, very stupid people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Meacham, it was impossible to detect a whiff of grief in Donald Trump after that.
MEACHAM: No. We`re in a -- this is in honor of Bill Sapphire. Here`s an alliterative run for you. We`re in this odd position where we`re faced with a president who is bound up in narcissism, nationalism, and nastiness. Take that Spiro, he would have loved that.
And I think it`s a remarkable, almost sociopathic lack of empathy. And it is further evidence. We don`t need any more evidence, but it is a manifestation of the fact that the president sees this role as a professional wrestling tournament as a reality show and not as reality itself.
O`DONNELL: And do you find, as we were discussing earlier in this hour, that when the president continues with that appearance and continues in his normal mood with his followers, that he is in some way conveying to them that nothing important to them happened in Pittsburgh that day?
MEACHAM: That`s a very interesting point. Yes, I fear so. If the president does not pause to take note of moments of crisis and moments of grief in the life of the nation, then he does have an extraordinary number of followers who will take their cue from him. And that in fact what unfolded is something to be commented on quickly and in a pro forma way.
And then you get back to attacking the folks who were against whom an assassination attempt was launched last week. And I try not to be reflexively anti-either side. You do try to let reason and let a historical sensibility actually decide to what extent is this a stylistic problem, to what extent is it a substantive problem. But we`re exactly at a point and have been for a while where the style and the substance are one.
The American presidency from the very first moments when George Washington said, "As the first of everything, I know that everything I do will become a precedent and I want those precedents to be founded on true principles." John Adams when he was vice president noted that the president was the object of all eyes and the subject of all conversation. This has been true for a long time.
And the way in which you comport yourself in these moments matters enormously. And so one of the things we know is that the presidency has not changed Donald Trump. What we don`t yet know is has Donald Trump changed the presidency permanently? What is unquestionable is that he has coarsened the culture of the moment.
O`DONNELL: John Meacham, in my struggle for perspective this weekend and today, I knew that I wanted to hear from you tonight. Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, that "New York Magazine" cover story on what it is like to be shot by a mass murderer and survive. The story includes Sherry Zelsdorf. She was injured at age 33 when a 12-year-old student brought a handgun to San Castro Middle School. Sherry said, "The shooter was my student. I came back to work on the 14th of February, the same day as the shooting in Florida."
O`DONNELL: On Saturday, six people who were shot in the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue survived their gunshot wounds. They will now join the thousands and thousands of Americans who have been wounded by mass murderers and survived.
"New York Magazine`s" cover story this week is about those survivors who tell their stories in their own words accompanied by photographs by Michael Avedon. I must warn you that some of these photographs are difficult to look at. Rome Shubert was 16 when he was shot at his high school in Texas.
He said, "There were two girls sitting by the back door of the classroom and they said, `Let`s go now` and I had no idea where he was. I had no idea that I had even been shot yet. Outside, I started running. There`s a brick wall anywhere from seven to nine feet tall and there`s a gate that you could climb up, but there were people crowding it so I just decided I`m going to get over this wall. And all in one motion, I got up and over the wall. Somebody was running past me and I asked them real quick, `Whose blood is this?` And they said, `It`s yours. It`s yours. You have a bullet hole in your neck.` And I couldn`t believe it because how am I running, how am I talking?"
Colin Goddard was shot at Virginia Tech University in 2007. He says, "There were 17 people in that room with me. I`m one of seven alive today. Eventually, I was able to play sports again and return to my same physical state which helped my mental state. However, 10 years later, I`m dealing with lead poisoning. My mom forwarded me an article about lead levels in gunshot, victims saying, `You ever get tested?` I was never told to. Sure enough, I had significantly elevated levels of lead in my blood."
Joining us now is photographer and "New York Magazine" Contributor Michael Avedon whose photographs appear in the magazine.
Michael, this is just a stunning story. And as soon as I saw the photographs and saw these stories, I was wondering since you visited all of these people, what was the most surprising part of your experience talking to these people?
MICHAEL AVEDON, CONTRIBUTOR, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I think, Lawrence, the most surprising component was how brave and resilient these survivors have been. It really gave me incredible hope and courage myself.
O`DONNELL: And these are intimate photographs. There`s one man who is naked. How -- was it difficult as a photographer to get their cooperation for these photographs?
AVEDON: Every subject was different but I think we really talked before the sitting began. I really asked them about their stories, how they`ve dealt with this tragedy and how they`ve come out the other end and what they`re doing now to cope with it and also contribute to the discussion about how we can address this problem.
O`DONNELL: This is unlike any other photographic work that I know you have done. You have been doing all sorts of things, but nothing like this.
O`DONNELL: What made you take this assignment?
AVEDON: Well, this is the first major assignment I`ve done that had any kind of topical presence and I have always wanted to contribute to the perseverance of our society in the best of ways in some form with my work. So it really was the first time I`ve ever explored this type of tragedy and it was by far the most harrowing photographic experience of my career and my life.
O`DONNELL: What did you find about their spirits and about being in their company?
AVEDON: They really are my heroes. They had such kindness. They had such hope. And they`ve suffered in unimaginable ways but they have come out the other end with such dignity. And that really was moving, the dignity I experienced. You know, it is obvious they`re still dealing with this every day from post-traumatic stress to self-prosecuting at times, feeling insecure about being in society, but a lot of them have just been so brave. It really shows you how resilient the human spirit can be.
O`DONNELL: When people hear the name Avedon on a photography spread, they think of Richard Avedon, who we should tell the audience was your grandfather.
O`DONNELL: And your name, Michael Patrick Avedon, includes a reference to your other grandfather, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I knew them both. Michael, they would be so proud of you for this work. I really appreciate you coming in tonight.
AVEDON: Well, thank you. It was such an honor. And I just wanted to extend my gratitude to "New York Magazine," Jodie Kwan, the photo editor, Adam Moss, the editor who`s by far the most important assignment I`ve ever been on. And it`s an honor to be here.
O`DONNELL: It is an important work. Michael, thank you very much.
Tonight`s last word is next.
AVEDON: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: The last word tonight goes to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: I turn my eyes to the heavens where my help come. My help comes from God, maker of heaven and earth. So, God, why us? Why couldn`t he turn his car a different direction? I begin services at 9:45, the shooting started a few minutes after. There were 12 of us. And this is customary in other faiths. All the early people come and sit in the back.
I helped pull out the people that I could from the front, but, alas, I had eight people in the back. One, fortunately, survived. Seven of my congregants were shot dead in my sanctuary. My holy place has been defiled. We will rebuild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Rabbi Jeffrey Myers gets tonight`s last word. That word is we will rebuild.