In this corner … with tears in my eyes.

GOOD NEWS: Read an update here!

This isn’t the post I was planning to write about the developments with Kate and Peter’s Treehouse, but it is the one that recent events have warranted I write. Events that have enraged the normally calm and collected Amy, and events that, well, what’s a word STRONGER than “enraged?” Cause I’m THAT.

Stick with me to the end of this post, please, friends, and I hope I can count on you to stand in Amy’s corner with me as she gears up for a fight in the name of her dead children.

As you know, Amy Ambrusko writes the Callapitter blog in an effort to come to terms with the deaths of her two young children, Kate and Peter, who died one year ago in a car accident. Their father’s car left the road and went over an embankment when he had a seizure and by the time the police found the wreckage three hours or so later, Kate and Peter had died.

In the wake of their deaths, Amy has remained incredibly strong, yet human and vulnerable to the rollercoaster of emotions, bright spots, and outright terror she faces every single day as she does her best to function by putting one foot in front of the other. Taking one breath after another. Just keep swimming.

Not long after Kate and Peter died, Amy spoke with her father about memorializing her children in such a way as to do two things: give her some peace in knowing their memories would live on, and do it in a way that benefits OTHER children.

Kate and Peter loved Frick Park. It’s where Amy often took them to play. And Amy thought it fitting to raise the funds to put a playground of some sort in Frick Park for them.  Those plans grew and shifted and changed until Amy and the Parks Conservancy decided on a unique treehouse type of play area for children to play in at Frick Park.

She began silently raising funds to pay for the proposed treehouse, and secured donations from 700 people and groups all around the world … including me.

So, with money coming into the conservancy, proposed designs being drawn up, and a perfect spot in Frick Park identified, it appeared everything was moving along just swimmingly.

Until Amy sent me an email a week or so ago, to put me on notice that she was hearing rumblings that some residents in the Frick Park area planned to oppose the treehouse. She and I couldn’t fathom why. On what grounds? We still can’t fathom it.

In that email, Amy told me that a small contingent of residents opposing the treehouse had become quite vocal. A representative with the Parks Conservancy met with them to hear their concerns and told Amy that  she didn’t know if they would be able to fight them. That their minds are made up. That one person went so far as to say something along the lines of, “Why does this woman think that just because her kids died and she raised all this money, she’s entitled to put a playground in our neighborhood?”


In that email, Amy wrote:

It never occurred to me that I might anger people by trying to build a playground. I thought I was trying to do something positive, and add something to not only their neighborhood, but the city of Pittsburgh – something that would benefit lots of people. I guess they see me as selfish. I never expected this. Especially not from Pittsburghers.

It never ever occurred to me either. When I read her email, I was livid. So livid. Shaking with rage. I emailed Mike to get him to calm me down. I emailed Amy all, “UNLEASH ME, PLEASE!”

But Amy kept a cool head.  She said no. Not yet. She said there was going to be a meeting of the Regent Square Civic Association on June 7 and that would be the proper place for the opponents to voice their concerns and for Amy and the treehouse designers to perhaps address those concerns and to show the residents what an awesome gift this would be for the children of Frick Park. I stayed leashed and promised Amy I would do what needed to be done to get some supporters to show up at that meeting and that I personally would be there, even though I don’t live in that area. That’s the post I was SUPPOSED to be writing today.

Asking you to come with me. To stand behind Amy and say, “At least LISTEN to the woman. Look at the money she’s raised! Look at this freaking awesome treehouse!”

Yet, today, I received an email from Amy and in the months that I’ve known her and have emailed with her. In the months that she’s suffered through the one year anniversary and a hellish Mother’s Day, she’s never shown anger. Never raged at the unfairness of life. Never said to me, “God. I’m so freaking pissed off right now.” She’s been through the anger stage and right now, she’s so level-headed when you can be damned sure if my children perished, I would nourish a deep-rooted anger at everyone and everything and it would fester and I would change and I would become an unbearable human being until the day I died with clenched fists and a scowl on my face. Amy just keeps swimming.

So you can imagine my surprise when I received an email from her today and the subject line was “OMG” and there was a word in that email that blinked at me like a check engine light … RAGE.

It was a short message and I was in tears by the end.

Amy spoke with Doug Shields’ office today. It seems this small but vocal group of opponents to the treehouse have somehow managed to get Doug Shields on their side. Doug Shields’ chief of staff told Amy that they are requesting she pull the proposed treehouse from that part of Frick Park and go put it somewhere else. In someone else’s backyard.

Brace your freaking selves, friends.

Said people don’t want it in their backyard and if everyone built a memorial in Frick Park it would look like a cemetery. When I said absolutely not, until everyone’s voices are heard, she said, ‘Do you really want your kids’ names to be part of this controversy?’

Doug Shields chief of staff went beyond the pale in being cruel and went so far as to play the You’ll Tarnish The Names of Your Dead Kids Card.

After I read her email, I begged again, “UNLEASH ME. PLEASE.”

And she did.

Hear me well.

Amy could never and will never be a disappointment to the memories of her dead children, even as she fights this callousness and cruelness. Can you imagine, you guys, for just one moment, what she’s been through? Wouldn’t you feel an almost unbearable desire to pay tribute to your children in a way that ensures their brief presence here on earth isn’t forgotten?

It’s why the park near my house has the David J. Nelson baseball field, and every time I go there, I look at his picture, and I’m reminded of how fleeting life can be.

It’s why there’s a special place in Oak Hollow Park dedicated to Staff Sergeant David Wieger. I’ve stood in that space and looked at his picture and paid my respects to him.

It is parents saying, “This was my child. I’ll never forget him. Please don’t you ever do it either.”

Amy isn’t asking for a free ride, or even an easy ride. She just wants the opportunity to state her case for the treehouse at the meeting, and Doug Shields’ office is trying to stand in her way.

I’ve taken on some fights in my five years as a blog writer, and if there’s one thing I learned from BRESMA, it is that if you fight for something you truly believe in, you can make a difference.

At this point, Amy is still on the agenda for the meeting on June 7, and if that remains true and if you agree that Amy should at least get to speak her case, then will you come with me? A physical show of support made up of Pittsburghers, TRUE FREAKING PITTSBURGHERS.  Anyone that wants this project canned or moved without at least giving Amy a chance, has hereby had their Pittsburgher Card revoked. A special session is planned for 6:00 p.m. at the Wilkins School Community Center.

As for Doug Shields, will you email or call him? Let him know you support Amy’s project at least to the point that you strongly object to their efforts to stand in her way to put a treehouse in Frick Park, the place Kate and Peter loved to play. That you object to their methods. That you object to their callousness. That Amy chose Pittsburgh as her haven as she endures every day without her children and that by God, we’re going to show her that wasn’t a mistake.

Show her what a true Pittsburgher is.

You can email Doug Shields’ office here or at

You can call his office here: 412-255-8965

And you can sure as effing hell tell him I sent you.

I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Michael
    May 28, 2010 9:22 pm

    After reading a Post Gazette article about the tree house memorial (“Internet erupts in defense of plan for memorial playground”), I read the blogs mentioned.

    The blog of Amy Ambrusko was very touching. After all that woman has been through she shows a remarkable perspective and fairness. My hear is touched by her. I cm confident she will make a fitting memorial for her children.

    This blog is different. In my opinion, it shows no balance and no insight in the situation with the memorial or the neighborhood. It is filled with an ill-tempered, “livid” rant that does no justice to either Amy nor to her oppostiion.

    I love Frick Park. I’m not sure whether or not the tree park memorial in that area is a good idea or not. I do know that I do NOT want the issue determined by a crowd brought in by the “That’s Church” blog.

  2. USDog
    May 28, 2010 10:20 pm

    @ Michael –

    The article you read would most likely not exist if it were not for “That’s Church”. Get it?

  3. Franklin Evans
    May 29, 2010 11:09 am

    I am well familiar with NIMBY conflicts, and while I live in the other PA bookend, Philadelphia, this sort of thing remains of great interest.

    It is supremely important, especially for Amy, to realize and remember that the conflict is not a personal one, it is a political one. We like to think we are dealing with neighbors and people with feelings, but when it comes to property, taxes, privacy, etc. it is primarily (and even wholly) political.

    That’s why I want to echo and emphasize a caution expressed above: If a crowd shows up at the hearing and becomes a gang confrontation (let alone a shouting match), the original purpose will be lost amidst the emotional rhetoric and the territorial angst of the residents opposing the playground project.

    Let me be clear: Opposition to the memorial must be viewed objectively. Amy’s desire is an emotional one, one any parent can sympathize with, but that alone does not give her the right to push the project through. If her supporters cannot embrace that, cannot show at least minimal respect for that opposition and separate it from the emotional part, then there are two, main, possible outcomes: The project will fail, and you will all have made enemies with people who before were total strangers; the project will succeed, and a tit-for-tat war will break out with vandalism and/or propaganda, giving politicians a new football to use to drum up community emotions during election seasons. We live in an era when issues are less important than harnessing the outrage of voters, who in sober thought don’t necessarily support the principles behind the issues.

    Finally, all of the “but why doesn’t Amy try something else” suggestions, while well-meaning, are beside the point. She put thought and effort into this, apparently had been ready to do it right (having contacted the appropriate authorities and agencies, raised private-sector money rather than ask for government funds), and things like putting it on private property are ridiculous. The original project must stand on its merits. Support that if you agree with it, and refrain from second-guessing it if you disagree.

  4. Aimee
    May 30, 2010 1:07 pm

    @ Civilization, I can see where you may think that supporters of the memorial are torch and pitchfork types, based on many of the comments. However, you have to take into consideration the reasons why many of us felt so enraged when this information surfaced. My rage centered more on the unnecessary comments made by Shields’ COS. Her comments were made in an obvious effort to scare Ms. Ambrusko away, so that the entire issue would go away. That’s pretty disgusting on many levels. I agree that the residents have a right to be better informed on the project since they live so close to the proposed location. I also agree that they have a right to their opinions and concerns. I will be at the meeting on the 7th and I can assure you, I will show up as an adult, ready to listen to both sides. I can also assure you that I will be there in support of the memorial project and in hopes that concerns of the neighbors can be addressed in a way that will allow it to move forward. That said, if it weren’t for this blog, Ginny’s post and her readers, Ms. Ambrusko may very well have been excluded from the meeting. If it took a little torch and pitchfork action to keep her on the agenda, then so be it. Finally, many who are in support of the memorial do live in the area and should be given the same right to our opinions as those who oppose it. While I can understand some of the points you made, I don’t think you took into consideration all that you needed to. Just sayin.

  5. Jack Boot
    June 1, 2010 2:46 pm

    I saw a comment urging that tree house supporters wear the same colored clothing to show solidarity. Has the color been chosen yet? If not, I suggest brown shirts.

  6. Where's the Civility?
    June 2, 2010 1:42 am

    I am a resident in Regent Square. I am not sure how I feel about the park yet- since the plans haven’t been finalized, it’s really too soon to agree/ disagree. Unless, it’s about the concept of a memorial park for Amy’s children- that’s easy- who could oppose that notion? Unfortunately, there a few things wrong here-

    1) A small, vocal, highly impacted group rallied together and generated a lot of premature dialogue about this park. So all we have to discuss at this point is location and impact. And unless we live in the immediate area, we can’t REALLY assess the impact (traffic, etc.) b/c we don’t face it every day.
    2) The RSCA meeting was established to educate the community about the project (premature, yes- see above) and hear from all sides including Amy, the Parks Conservancy, the opposition, the supporters and the neutral fact finders. To the post above- there has never been any danger that Amy would be left out. I hope the RSCA participants don’t regret their desire to facilitate this meeting b/c of a few, out of control people.
    3) Some “supporters” on this site are very emotional but to behave in such an uncivil manner does more to harm this cause than to help it. How can it help to use such vulgar language and hurl terrible insults at people? To unfairly characterize the entire Regent Square community as racists and despicable human beings does not make me want to listen to you.
    4) The original school (before the ECS) was small local school which did not require the number of busses and cars now needed to transport kids from all over the area to the school. So that is a significant difference in the level of traffic to the area from when most of the folks bought their homes. Also, this specific area of park is a green space that does not usually attract much attention. It is typically used by residents for games (kickball, catch, etc.) that aren’t conducive to the small “city yards” we have in Regent Square.
    5) “Regent Square” is an area, not a municipality. It is made up of PARTS of Pittsburgh, Swissvale, Wilkinsburg and Edgewood. So, the meeting is not being held by some interloping suburbanites that just suck up city resources. As the representative body in this area, the Regent Square Civic Association is hosting this meeting in a venue that is (hopefully) big enough to accommodate everyone- it just so happens that the venue is in Swissvale.

  7. USDog
    June 2, 2010 12:13 pm

    @ Where’s the Civility?

    First, I appreciate your approach to this. I must disagree with you on some the assumptions you reach, though.

    In Point 2 – you make an assessment that Amy was never in jeopardy of having an opportunity to openly present her side. I don’t see how you reached that conclusion based on the response Amy received from the “small, vocal, highly impacted group” and even more so from Mr. Shield’s office.

    In Point 3 – You take a few of the inappropriate comments from the “supporters” and say that their lack of civility towards the Regent Square residents was unfair and harmful. Yet – you want to be able to separate yourself from the “small, vocal, highly impacted group” you referenced in Point 1. This group was just as, if not more so, hurtful and unfair in the way they treated and responded to Amy. You cannot have it both ways. Either generalize both sides of the conversation or none at all. Your last statement on this point:
    “To unfairly characterize the entire Regent Square community as racists and despicable human beings does not make me want to listen to you.” shows your hypocrisy. Why is it okay for you to not want to listen, but not for the “supporters of this site” to have the same viewpoint? Indeed, why would someone want to listen to a group of people that seem to have purposefully tried to very hurtfully squash this project before it was even presented? Thankfully – that is not the viewpoint of the vast majority of the “supporters”. The whole point of this is to get Amy a fair opportunity to present the project and to ACTUALLY try to work through any concerns.

    More importantly, and where I believe the outrage really comes from, is the issue of a public official’s office treating Amy in the manner they did and to attempt to convince her to cease trying.

    Go back and read your first paragraph. I believe that the catalyst that created this entire “issue” was exactly the unwillingness of certain Regent Square residents to consider “the concept of a memorial park for Amy’s children” followed by the initial response from Doug Shield’s office and even more specifically the way they went about doing it.

    Point 4 may all be very valid and this is the type of feedback that I think Amy would appreciate hearing at the meeting.

    Point 5 – I’m not certain there was confusion on this part, but thank you for the clarifications.

    In conclusion, I think that to summarize either the That’s Church commenters/supporters or the Regent Square residents by the few extreme comments that were made is wrong.

  8. Where's the Civility?
    June 2, 2010 1:23 pm

    I appreciate your thoughtful response. There are a few things I’d like to clarify because I think they’ll help.
    2-The supporters of this project (Amy included) were never in jeopardy of being silenced because the meeting is being hosted by a neutral neighborhood organization (RSCA) whose mission is to facilitate these types of events and discussions within. I am more certain of this point than anything else in my email. Hopefully that will ease some minds.
    3- “Why is it okay for you to not want to listen, but not for the “supporters of this site” to have the same viewpoint?” Touché’ I hadn’t considered my comment that way so you made me reconsider my thoughts. I was reacting to a few posters who honestly shocked me. It disappoints me that several of my neighbors- who are neutral/ mildly supportive won’t attend the meeting now because they are somewhat frightened about the scene that could ensue. I know people are emotional about this- but (to me) it seems like there is a very small contingent of opposers facing a very large group of supporters- maybe not- we’ll see. I was just trying to say that it’s hard to want to listen when you’re being offended. And as you said, both sides are culpable.
    I know people are upset about the comments made by officials and the opposition. I just hope that those comments aren’t the focus of the meeting because then we all lose an opportunity to actually learn about the project.
    Thanks again.

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  10. Michael
    June 22, 2010 6:28 pm


    For sure if it weren’t for this blog, I would not have seen stuff about this in an article.

    That would be a VERY good thing.

    It is for the people who are in that neighborhood to decide. A bunch of noise on a suburban blogger’s site doesn’t help the process.

  11. localyocal
    October 25, 2010 10:00 pm

    @Michael-it most certainly is NOT for the people who live there to decide. They were not handed a key to Frick Park when they bought their homes. While I acknowledge that residents should be informed of future plans for the park and have the chance to be heard, no one gave them a piece of the park when they purchased. Ironically, I’m sure the park was a draw for them but you take the good with the bad. To assume that all will stay as you like it in the park because you bought a house down the street is unrealistic at best. People in other neighborhoods near other parks deal with so called intrusions all the time but they aren’t staging public campaigns against them.