Recap: Yonah has a hunch Ben may be at the Freedom School. He goes there frantically looking for Ben and finds him hunched in a corner crying bitterly over the loss of his brother.
I glanced at the clock. It was almost midnight. I closed Yonah’s journal. I had noticed tear smudges on some of the words in this last entry.
I glanced at my copious notes. My paper was almost done. I needed a few more hours. I would stay up as late as I could to finish it, because tomorrow was the last day Mrs. Schwerner could submit it to The Wall Street Journal. I felt a flutter of excitement inside. I was really going to get published in such a prestigious newspaper. More importantly, Mrs. Schwerner felt strongly that this article could make a difference in finally obtaining a conviction for her husband’s killer.
At two a.m., I finally typed the last line. I pressed the Print button. I rushed downstairs and pulled my 5,000-word, hot-off-the-press article from the printer. I went back upstairs to shut down my computer and, to my dismay, I found my computer was totally black and I couldn’t get it to go back on. Baruch Hashem, it had lasted until I finished my article. It was an old computer. I tried charging it.
Nothing happened. It looked like that was the end of it. So now I held the only copy of my article. I thought I should go to a copy store and copy it before I gave it to Rita. I plopped into bed and fell fast asleep. I woke to my mother’s voice. “Telephone.”
I quickly washed n’tilas yadayim, dressed, and ran downstairs.
Ella was on the phone, breathless. “Ruchy, it’s supposed to be a gorgeous day. We’re planning to have our event outside by the fountain. I got permission from the school. I have an awesome guest speaker coming.”
“So, I need you to come to campus to help me set up.”
“Okay, I just have to daven. I’ll be there soon.” I only had one class, later in the day.
I scooped up my article and placed it in my backpack. I took my medicine. It was a relief swallowing the pill that would keep me from having any more seizures or problems. I gulped a quick breakfast and then headed towards school. I joined Ella by the fountain. She was setting up chairs and a microphone and a shtender. “I’m so excited,” she said. “The rosh ha’yeshivah of Lilmod Torah is going to speak. He happens to be in New York now and I was able to book him.”
“That’s great,” I said. “Does he live in Israel?”
“You never heard of Lilmod Torah ?”
I shook my head and placed my backpack and sat down on the side of a row of chairs and began to set up folding chairs in a row.
“It’s like the premier baalei t’shuvah yeshivah in Jerusalem. My chasan learned there.”
After setting up rows and rows of chairs, I plopped down on one. “I can’t set up another chair,” I said.
“Want some lemonade?”
Ella poured me a cup and offered me some corn chips. I gazed around at the fountain and then the bell tower chimed the hour. I glanced up. The sun shining on the bell tower made it glisten. I asked Ella if I could borrow her camera. “I’d love to take a photo of the bell tower to go with my article.”
Ella handed me her camera, which she brought to all the Israel events. I shot the tower from several angles.
“When is Mrs. Schwerner coming to meet with you?” Ella asked.
“Later today. I’m so excited to give her the article.”
“I can’t wait to read it,” Ella said.
Soon, students started coming, filling the chairs. The Indian summer day was perfect, with a soft breeze and the fountains spurting their lovely foam towers. Ella kept glancing at her watch. It was getting late and the speaker still hadn’t arrived.
As the sun moved to a late-afternoon angle shining on the buildings around us, a tall, slim man wearing a black suit, white shirt, and black hat strode to the front of the audience.
He smiled at everyone. I expected him to have an Israeli accent, but he spoke English like an American. “How does he know English so well?” I whispered to Ella.
“He’s originally from Chicago,” she said.
He began speaking about the parshah and then about Eretz Yisrael. He told stories. He had an aura of holiness about him. You could feel his love of Hashem that exuded from the way he spoke about Torah and Israel and Yiddishkeit.
I was so mesmerized by his speaking that I didn’t notice an unusual noise coming from the back of the platform. The fountains were swishing and the noise, a steady hammering, was almost imperceptible. Ella noticed and pointed it out to me.
We both turned around and at that exact second, a siren went off and someone yelled, “There’s a bomb!”
To be continued…
By Susie Garber