A Jewish nurse who took care of the man charged with killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue has opened his heart about the experience in a long, meditative Facebook post.
Ari Mahler works as a trauma nurse at Allegheny General Hospital, and was on duty when Robert Bowers, 46, arrived at the hospital to be treated for multiple gunshots wounds and still screaming that he wanted to kill Jews.
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"So now, here I am, The Jewish Nurse that cared for Robert Bowers," Mahler says in the post.
"The fact that I did my job, a job which requires compassion and empathy over everything, is newsworthy to people because I'm Jewish. Even more so because my dad's a Rabbi."
Mahler said the experience conjured the anti-Semitism he endured as a child.
"There were a few Jewish kids at my school, but no one else had a father who was a Rabbi. I found drawings on desks of my family being marched into gas chambers, swastikas drawn on my locker, and notes shoved inside of it saying, 'Die Jew. Love, Hitler.' "
A spokeswoman for Allegheny Health confirmed to CNN that the Ari Mahler post is authentic.
"This was the same Robert Bowers that just committed mass homicide," he said. "The Robert Bowers who instilled panic in my heart worrying my parents were two of his 11 victims less than an hour before his arrival."
Mahler says he is certain that Bowers had no idea he was Jewish but chose not to tell him anything about his religion.
"I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong," Mahler said.
Mahler said he saw "something else" when he interacted with Bowers.
"To be honest, I didn't see evil when I looked into (his) eyes," he said. Mahler said, without elaborating. He said he couldn't go into detail about his interactions with Bowers because of privacy law.
"I can tell you that as his nurse, or anyone's nurse, my care is given through kindness, my actions are measured with empathy, and regardless of the person you may be when you're not in my care, each breath you take is more beautiful than the last when you're lying on my stretcher."
He ended his post with a simple and powerful message:
"Love. That's why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we're all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings."
Amid the success of his message, which went viral after it was posted on Facebook on November 3, Mahler said in another post that he feels grateful but vulnerable for "sharing my heart with the world."
"Regardless of my own insecurities, however, I believe it was a message that needed to be shared," he said. "People look for the world to change, and it cannot when we remain silent."