Sarri Singer will never forget that horrific moment of silence. To this day, when a glass drops, she's reflexively brought back to what she describes as a "silence of death all around."
On June 11, 2003, the daughter of N.J. state senator Robert Singer, then 29, was on Bus 14 in Jerusalem when an 18-year-old suicide bomber boarded. Minutes later, 16 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured, including Sarri, who could not fully open her eyes to see the casualties around her. She screamed and a man from blocks away, not a paramedic or an EMT, but a civilian, brought her to safety. "Israelis instinctively know to help everybody," she says, "whereas our instincts are to immediately dial 911, he just ran over and jumped right into action." After being rescued from the carnage, Sarri was hospitalized for two weeks and she says, "I'm happy with my injuries, I'm lucky," referring to a minor loss of hearing in one ear and resulting shrapnel in parts of her body that are not removable.
Sarri had never imagined she would find herself in a hospital bed, the survivor of a terrorist bombing. Until 9/11, she had worked as the Director of Recruitment for National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) summer programs, just two blocks from the World Trade Center. After walking the streets and seeing the destruction, observing tourists snapping photos and feeling a desperate need to do something, Sarri resigned from her position and moved to Israel to help victims of terror. She coordinated bone marrow drives for organizations that help terror victims such as Gift of Life, and worked with organizations including KEDMA, Kids4Kids, The Koby Mandell Foundation and the One Family Fund.
Then, on her way to meet a friend that fateful day in June, Sarri boarded Bus 14 and her life changed forever. She would return to Israel after convalescing at her parents' home in Lakewood, N.J., because she wasn't going to show fear and let the terrorists win. Israel was where she felt her heart belonged. She loved the land and she loved the people.
"I went back to Israel in September 2003 after the attack because I wanted to be there," she explains, "I didn't want that 18-year-old who boarded that bus to hurt and murder innocent people to make me afraid. Terrorism is about making us afraid and paralyzing us, and I didn't want to be the victim that the terrorist wanted."
She worked as an administrator in a school until medical issues forced her to return to the United States.
In April 2006, Sarri co-founded One Heart with Jacob Kimchy, an Israeli man who lost his father to a suicide bomber and was left with no remains to bury and a resounding shock from the sudden loss that would last a lifetime for him and his family.
One Heart focuses on long term psychological care and plastic surgery for victims of terror worldwide. Sarri and Jacob address audiences throughout the United States, Canada and Israel and continue to share their insight into the ongoing struggle for victims of terror in Israel and around the world.
"The terrorist attack that happened in Israel this past Friday night to the Fogel family is something that has been very heavy on me since I heard about it," Sarri says, stating her outrage at the minimal news coverage the massacre received. "Our organization does not work with families immediately after an attack," she explains, "There are incredible organizations in Israel (like Navah) as well as Betuach Leumi (national insurance) that work with families immediately after a terrorist attack and which are helping the Fogel family right now. Our organization works to bring survivors together -- dealing with long-term trauma and helping victims heal long-term." Sarri notes how in Israel people don't think twice about immediately assisting, giving of themselves, their money and their hearts.
Rami Levy is exemplary of this concept. He is the owner of one of the larger supermarket chains in Israel and comes over daily to the Fogel relatives' shiva house in Itamar, Israel to stock the cupboards and refrigerators himself. When one of the relatives expressed appreciation recently, he said, "You will get used to my face. I have committed myself that every week I will deliver food and stock your home until the youngest orphan turns 18 years old."
People like Rami Levy are Sarri Singer's inspiration. She says that just like the many incredible people who gave of themselves despite not knowing her, like those who visited her in the hospital ("Arab-Israeli politics do not exist in the hospital," she explains, "I welcomed every guest with open arms"), we must keep "recognizing that we are all responsible for each other and that those directly impacted by terrorism, by injury, or the loss of a loved one deserve no less than our very best."
From March 27 to April 3, One Heart will bring a group of survivors of terrorism to New York City as part of its "Mission of Healing and Peace -- Young Ambassadors Program." The participants of this trip are between the ages of 14-18 and lost either a parent or immediate family member in a terrorist attack or were injured themselves. The teens hail from Northern Ireland, Spain, France, Israel and the United States.
Sarri says that in addition to meeting with community and political leaders, the teens will embark on a tour, visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Tribute Center, SONY Technology Labs, a museum, FAO Schwartz, NY Sky Ride and the Empire State Building. The trip aims to bring together those affected by terrorism in solidarity and to be able support and comfort one another.
"Restaurants, companies and individual donors have donated their resources to make this trip possible," Sarri adds. "The goal is to ensure a week filled with exciting and fun activities combined with meetings with leaders in order to empower these children to take their personal experiences of trauma and share them with each other to bring about healing."
For more information about how you can help Sarri Singer to give back and support those affected by terrorism, visit One Heart.