A desperate search was mounted this past Wednesday afternoon for a seven-year-old boy who vanished during a day camp outing at Canarsie Park, Brooklyn. Volunteers descended from as far away as Lakewood, New Jersey, to participate in the hunt for young Yosef Shapiro after the boy went missing just after 2:30 p.m. The warm weather and bright sky gave rescue workers time to search, but the hours quickly waned; search teams had sadly come up emptyhanded.

The call had gone out for additional personnel and Queens volunteers, and our many volunteer groups responded in droves. Between Chaverim of Queens, Hatzolah of Queens, Misaskim of Queens, and Queens Borough Safety Patrol – Shmira, over one hundred Queens-based volunteers joined the search party, which was reportedly over 2,000 strong. As daylight became scarce, male and female volunteers were ready to stay on through the thick of the night, but the search was taking on a much more desperate mood as nightfall approached and Yosef had yet to surface. Members of these organizations were seen combing the thick, heavily wooded, rugged terrain, passing out bottled water and snacks to rescuers returning to the base, and coordinating with the various command centers already in place and members of law enforcement, including the New York Police Department. Alexander Rapaport of Masbia was also on hand with a relief and recharge station for the wary volunteers.

The air filled with a chill as rain began to set in, as the harrowing situation evolved. Prayers were being said worldwide for the success of the rescue team and hope was high. Just as a heavy rain began to break, radios and cheers of chasdei Hashem spread throughout the crowd. Yosef had been located in what was said to be good condition, near the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, waiting patiently to be found. He knew he had been lost and was confident that his parents would know how to find him.

Yosef’s parents shared the following letter of appreciation with the Queens Jewish Link. “There are no words to express our hakaras ha’tov to Hashem for the safe return of our dear son Yosef, who was lost for six hours in Canarsie Park last Wednesday. We thank all the organizations, led by Flatbush Shomrim and the NYPD, and the many hundreds of volunteers who came in from throughout the region, men and women of all ages – our friends, neighbors, and family, and countless strangers who never knew our son. They all braved the brutal heat, humidity, thunderstorms, and drenching rains while searching for hours into the dark of night. We express tremendous gratitude to the tens of thousands around the world who were praying heartfelt t’filos for Yosef’s safe return. We are humbled and inspired by the magnitude of the achdus, chesed, and sharing of our burden that united klal Yisrael. May this incredible unity be the merit that finally brings the G’ulah. –– Simcha Dovid and Basya Shapiro

Once news spread of Yosef’s return, the rescue workers nearly all disappeared, save for a few dedicated Misaskim of Queens notables who were captured along with their vehicle in a CBS2 News report cleaning up debris in a since-vacated area where the command center stood a mere couple of hours prior.

By Shabsie Saphirstein