Two days ago a 9 year Jewish old boy heading home from camp went missing. Within hours his picture was broadly distributed and a frantic search began. Early this morning we learned the horrific news of his murder. My hearts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.
I would like to share the inspiration I drew from this experience.
Monday Night-Tuesday Afternoon
When I first read the news about a boy from two towns over who never made it home from camp, I wasn't incredibly concerned. I assumed he was at a friend and forgot to tell his parents where he was going. The next morning I checked out a couple of local blogs and was alarmed to learn that he still hadn't been located. By 5PM yesterday, I had received about a dozen emails from friends and neighbors with this boys picture, a hot line, and a staging ground where they were galvanizing volunteers. I was supposed to be attending a work-related event at Google but this seemed more important.
Last night I made my way out to Boropark to join the search efforts. What is usually a 15-20 minute drive took almost an hour. 18th avenue, a major thoroughfare, was blocked by hundreds of people surrounding a a police presence and what I later learned was a mobile command center. I took a wide circle around these throngs and tried to make my way to the 15th Ave mobile command center mentioned in the community emails and blogs. I couldn't get close to this side of the neighborhood by car due to the overwhelming number of volunteers streaming in and out. These crows were massive. I tried to circle and find parking, but there wasn't a single spot to be had in the general neighborhood.
The Search, The Crowds
As I drove around I was amazed at the number of people that had gathered to assist in this search effort, many of them coming from far flung areas (many of them an hour or two away) to help find a little boy they had never previously known existed. There were groups of teenage boys with massive flashlights, gaggles of teenage girls hanging up posters, young couples pushing babies in strollers, entire families out with their children and elderly couples shuffling along. The streets were packed with cars coming in and out, but there was not a single honk that I can recall (other than the occasional emergency vehicle trying to get through).
Driving through this neighborhood felt more like trying to drive through an open market than a civilian street. The streets were lit up with scores of flashlights and packed with strangers on a shared mission. There were people literally everywhere, all carrying the same picture and calling the same name. Doors, store window and trees all had the same poster. People had even blown up the poster and taped it to the sides of their cars.
As they seemed pretty busy at the command center, I followed some of the volunteers heading out to search for this boy in a nearby neighborhood. The experience was unreal. I drove for about thirty or forty blocks and did not pass a single area without volunteers searching high and low for this child. Thousands of strangers, joined by a common mission.
Around 11:30 PM I decided to call it a night and head home. My two boys (aged 1 and 4) were under the weather and my wife was doing her best to hold down the fort. I stopped by a 24 hour grocery in my neighborhood, approximately 5 miles away from Boropark. Not only were there signs on the street corners, but I'm pretty sure I saw volunteers further extending the search parameter.
This Morning - Conclusion
First thing this morning, I ran to check the news on this boy. I was as stunned, shocked and disgusted as the rest of you. While I cannot imagine the pain this boy's family is experiencing, the human mission this community and the broader Jewish community demonstrated last night is astounding.
Reading the news and seeing that "thousands" of volunteers participated in a search doesn't begin to demonstrate the power or beauty of this shared effort. This number belies the power that is a shared mission and true camaraderie among a people and a community in a time of need. The piles of garbage bags holding cups of coffee and refreshments for volunteers standing a few feet high outside the command center, the streets packed with cars and people for blocks in every direction, the noise of hundreds of hopeful voices calling the same name, all of these speak to an incredibly powerful human mission.
Please take some inspiration from this horrible series of events. Please take some inspiration from these selfless volunteers and do some good for a random stranger... I don't know what else to say, so I'll end this post here.
Please share your thoughts below.
Please email your thoughts and to condolences the Kletsky family at firstname.lastname@example.org . We will get the notes to them as soon as we can. Ask 9 others to do the same, and if they all do it and pass it on as well, we will soon have 100,000 people who simply cared enough to take the time to write, reach out and express their horror, pain and support at the Kletsky's senseless loss.