On the evening of Tuesday, August 3, two coach buses loaded with roughly 90 campers from Camp Acheinu were returning from a day trip. The bus drivers, being unfamiliar with the Kew Gardens Interchange, the continued construction, and the complexities of the infamous overpass of Austin Street above the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike, were left unable to travel forward as the buses were above the height limit. In the past, this crossing point has seen disasters of flipped trucks and tractor-trailers with terrible injuries. Luckily, the fast-thinking drivers understood their predicament and came to a halt.
With roadways backed up for well over a mile and a half, the Queens Borough Safety Patrol dispatch lines received a plea from camp officials to assist. The dedicated volunteers jumped into action, bringing in several vehicles to close passageways of the Jackie Robinson Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway, and the Grand Central Parkway, allowing space to be cleared for the buses to back up to safety.
“On arrival, we first checked on the well-being of the girls and assured everyone that we were at work to get them home safely,” said Shmira founder Hiski Meirov. “We immediately contacted Highway 3, the local 102nd and 107th police precincts to coordinate the safety effort.” Together with the NYPD, Shmira managed to bring the buses to a newly formed drop-off emergency zone along Queens Boulevard. “The police would not allow the buses to return to the camp,” explained Meirov. Shmira stood on to ensure the safety of the scene and waited until every child was picked up by their family members. “The safety of the girls was our priority. We remained present until the very end,” concluded Meirov. “We thank the camp administration, the devoted parents, and of course the campers for working together to keep everyone safe.”
By Shabsie Saphirstein