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State of the Union puts Western Pa. residents in the national spotlight

Patrick Varine
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Courtesy of the White House
Timothy Matson, a City of Pittsburgh police officer who was shot multiple times responding to the Tree of Life shooting.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor, speaks to members of the media following a press conference at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill on Dec. 28, 2018.
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Special guest of President Judah Samet (C), surrounded by Trump family members (top row) and other special guests, is acknowledged by the audience during US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
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Andrew Harnik | AP
Holocaust survivor Judah Samet was in the Tree of Life parking lot in Pittsburgh during the shooting in the synagogue President Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Tuesday night might have seen the first State of the Union address where the halls of Congress rang out with the sounds of “Happy Birthday.”

Senators, representatives, Washington officials and guests spontaneously broke into the celebratory song after President Trump recognized Judah Samet.

Samet arrived late to the Tree of Life synagogue in October and watched accused gunman Robert Bowers engage in a shootout with Pittsburgh police after killing 11 worshippers in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Tuesday evening was Samet’s 81st birthday, and during a round of applause, the entire chamber began singing “Happy Birthday.”

“Thank you!” Samet shouted from the gallery once the applause died down.

Trump also recognized Pittsburgh Police Officer Timothy Matson, 41, in attendance at Capitol Building.

“Timothy raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times, chasing down the killer, and he was very successful,” Trump said.

Matson, one of the police officers who rushed into the Tree of Life synagogue, recently had his 12th surgery to repair wounds from the shootout, “but he made the trip to be here with us tonight,” Trump said.

Samet, a resident of Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, was invited by the White House through the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.

The Hungarian-born Samet, a former Israeli Army paratrooper, survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a child.

The president did not make mention of TSA agent Monica Hughes, 44, of Penn Hills, invited to attend the State of the Union by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, after Casey saw a Facebook post she wrote decrying the recent federal government shutdown.


Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.


Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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