Terror survivor: ‘I fight hate with love’
IN DECEMBER 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, New Jerseyan Sarri Singer moved to Israel with the intention of helping victims of terrorism.
Then, in 2003, she became one herself. On June 11 of that year, she was riding a bus in Jerusalem when a suicide bomber blew himself up, murdering 16 people and wounding more than 100.
Singer was injured and suffered from pierced eardrums and seared face and hair.
Following treatment at Hadassah Hospital, she returned to New Jersey, where she helped found a nonprofit organization, Strength to Strength, which brings together terror victims and their families from around the world and assists them with long-term psychological care.
Now a resident of Manhattan and Lakewood, Singer was chosen as a delegate to the 14th Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress, held in Budapest in May. She is the daughter of NJ State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Dist. 30) and Judie Singer of Lakewood, who is a board member and leader at Congregation Ahavat Olam in Howell.
Sarri Singer was in Jerusalem to mark 10 years since the attack, and wrote the following reflection:
I cannot believe it has been a decade — often it feels like just yesterday. Ten years ago somebody tried to murder me. Here I am, celebrating this milestone of survival, watching the hustle and bustle of life going on in the exact spot where I was screaming, bloody and burnt by a terrorist. Everything in my life changed that day. I am proud to look back and know that I chose to fight hate with love and that I devote my life to peace, not revenge.
On June 11, 2003, on what felt like an extraordinarily uneventful day, I was headed to meet a friend for dinner in the German Colony of Jerusalem on Bus #14. When I close my eyes, the events of that day are still fresh in my mind. I remember boarding the crowded bus, standing until I saw two empty seats in the front section. Instead of taking the aisle seat, I moved into the seat next to the window. This choice saved my life. I remember the sounds of crushing metal and feeling the shockwave as the explosion tore through the bus. I immediately shut my eyes, an instinct that saved my sight. I remember the moment of eerie silence that followed the blast — a silence so frightening in its revelation that innocent people were dead in every seat around me.
Then I screamed. I screamed so loud that a stranger who had heard the blast from three blocks away ran toward the burning mangled bus and pulled me out. I will never forget the elderly Israeli woman who stood by my side holding me, burned, bleeding, and frightened. I will never forget the kindness and love shown to me by those whom I had never met. On that day, more than 100 of us were injured on and off the bus and 16 innocent people were murdered.
On the 10-year anniversary of the bombing, I stood at Davidka in Jerusalem, where the attack took place and reflected upon the lessons I’ve learned.
I have learned that through every bad situation there is much good to be found. I’ve met some of the most incredible survivors around the world — they’ve become my family. I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought and I can handle more than I ever imagined. I’ve realized that the world doesn’t owe me anything, that you truly do get what you give. Perhaps my most significant revelation is the importance of love and kindness, to combat hate with tenacity and courage.
After surviving a terrorist attack, working to change the world is the only way I know how to live my life.