Recap: A speaker from Israel is coming to Queens College. Everything is set up when suddenly a siren goes off and it’s a bomb threat.
People knocked down chairs in their rush to leave. Everyone was yelling and running. My heart was racing. I followed them away from the fountain area.
Soon, sirens blared as police cars pulled up onto campus and police officers poured out of their cars and barricaded the area with tape and cones.
We were standing on the street behind the police barricades. Students were milling around. There were reporters and police everywhere. Ella was in tears. “I can’t believe this happened. It ruined our event. Who would do such a thing?”
Police announced that it was not a real bomb – just a bomb scare. There were whispered rumors that it was a violent Jewish group. I prayed that it wasn’t.
I was watching all the commotion and worrying about Ella’s event when a terrible thought suddenly surfaced. “My article! It’s in my backpack by the fountain!” My heart sank. Ella looked at my stricken face. “There’s nothing you can do. They won’t let you go there.”
I ran over to an officer and explained, “Sir, I left something extremely important by the fountain.”
“I am sorry, Miss, but it is not safe to go there. Wait until the area is cleared and then we can go look for it,” he said.
I thought of the hours and hours of work I had put into that article. I remembered with a terrible jolt that my computer had blacked out. I had no copy of the article – none!
The day wore on, and the police kept the area off-limits. I was frantic. Mrs. Schwerner was coming to campus soon to meet with me with the Wall Street Journal editor. How could I meet them empty-handed?
“You know that Hashem has a plan for everything. This happened for a reason. We both have to really believe that, and if Hashem wants that article published, He will make sure you get it back. There is no way that you can make anything happen. It’s all in His hands,” Ella’s words helped me calm down.
A short while later, the crowds started to thin, and I spotted Mrs. Schwerner walking towards the front gates to the campus. I rushed over to her.
I filled her in on what happened. “The main thing is you are all right. Was there a bomb?”
“No, it was a bomb scare. Mrs. Schwerner, my paper is there, by the area that they won’t let us go.”
“That’s a real bummer, but maybe soon we can go get it?”
She suggested we go to the kosher cafeteria and then we could come back later to look for the knapsack. I was impressed by her calm. I kept thinking of what Ella had said, and that really helped me accept what was happening. We invited Ella to come along with us.
“There’s actually someone I want you to meet,” Mrs. Schwerner said.
“I told him about you, and he wanted to meet you, too.”
Seated in a chair towards the back of the room was a rabbi with a long beard, bent over a Gemara.
“Rabbi, here’s the person I wanted you to meet,” she said.
I felt my cheeks grow warm. I rose. “Hello,” I stammered. “Thank you for the speech. So sorry we got interrupted like that.”
He smiled. “Yes. Baruch Hashem, it was not a bomb after all. So, you are the one who was reading the journal and writing the article?”
I glanced at Mrs. Schwerner, surprised that the rabbi knew about my article.
“Yes,” I said. “I was honored to write about the heroes in the story and I want to help bring justice.”
He stroked his long, gray beard and nodded. “Those were heroes in the story, those three men. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t dedicate my learning to them.”
I glanced towards Ella. Why would he dedicate his learning to them?
“Ah,” he said, “You don’t know who I am?”
“I’m Yonah Hartstein. I believe you read my journal to help you with your article.”
“You should see the surprised look on your face, Ruchama,” Mrs. Schwerner giggled.
“You became a rav?”
“Baruch Hashem, thanks to Rita, I moved to New York. She found me a rabbi who said I could live at his house, and he also ended up helping me get into a beis midrash program, and from there I went to learn in Israel. It is there that I met my wife and, after I was ordained, we started a yeshivah for baalei t’shuvah. We now have six children, b’li ayin ha’ra. The two oldest are learning in yeshivah in Israel.”
“He named his oldest son after my husband.”
“Yes,” Rabbi Hartstein said, “Michoel Aryeh, after Mickey and Andy.”
I was going to ask about Henry when another man with a beard stepped towards the table.
“This is Rav Aharon, my gabbai. You read about him, as well.”
“Henry?” I asked.
The rabbi nodded.
As he finished speaking, a policeman strode into the cafeteria. He was carrying my backpack.
“Oh, baruch Hashem! Thank you!” I rushed over. I unzipped the knapsack to pull out the article for Mrs. Schwerner. The Wall Street Journal editor stood next to her, waiting.
I felt all around in all the pockets. My paper was gone.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.