May I tell you a story?
In the summer of 2001, I was the head counselor at a Chabad summer camp in beautiful suburban New Jersey. We had about 120 boys in this day camp and the summer was breezing along.
One day - it was a Wednesday - we took the kids to a giant indoor sports complex complete with soccer courts, hockey rinks, skateboarding pits - a great place to break a leg. In fact, right in the middle of it all there was a first aid station, EMT and all. And sure enough, right after lunch, a boy named Ari was hurt. He was playing roller hockey and a friend took a huge slapshot, missed the puck but not Ari's leg.
The EMT examined him and, concerned that a bone may have broken, directed us to take him to a hospital for x-rays. After the staff had left with Ari to the hospital, I made the call to the parents and told them everything. To say they were pleased would be . . . incorrect. But they were polite.
The problem began the next day. Ari came home with a stately cast, proud as can be with his athletic injury. But you see, Ari was part of the "pioneers" program, older boys who left every other week on a first-class extended trip to nearby cities, stayed in hotels, visited local attractions and generally had the time of their lives. With Ari in a cast and crutches and the kids running up and down the steps of a luxury coach several times a day, the camp director, Rabbi C., advised the family to keep him home.
The family disagreed; Ari wanted to go and they were willing to risk it. But of course, the director got his way and on Monday the pioneers left and Ari stayed home.
That night I found myself on a mission from the director, armed with a gift-wrapped present, to go to Ari's home and shmooze up the parents. They were very pleasant despite their frustration and gracefully thanked me for Ari's gift. When I offered to have Ari work as a junior staff member in camp until his friends returned, the father declined and explained that he works in the World Trade Center and that Ari enjoyed coming with him and enjoying the magnificent views.
We parted in peace and the summer ended uneventfully. I returned home to Minnesota and a few weeks later woke up to the unbelievable news that the World Trade Center had been destroyed. After the disbelief came the realization that Ari's father had his office there. Without thinking I grabbed a phone and called. His mother answered the phone and I stammered, "How are you guys?! How's your husband?!" continue...