A most unusual sight in Flatbush quickly set social media ablaze yesterday as people witnessed something quite extraordinary. A caravan of Hatzoloh ambulances and other vehicles from multiple neighborhoods were spotted speeding through Kensington heading towards the Prospect Expressway. With lights ablaze, enquiring minds found it hard to fathom what kind of horrific event was unfolding that necessitated such a large response. For those in the know however, nothing could have been further from the truth.
For most, the annual pilgrimage to say Tashlich between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a routine event, a rite of passage of sorts, one often recorded annually for posterity. For some, Tashlich has the potential to be the event of a lifetime. You see, the ambulances were transporting the children from the Ditmas Park Childrens Center on a trip like never before. These children, each incredibly special in their own way, seldom saw life outside of the walls of the facility that they were confined in. Many were dependent on ventilators to breath, others had different complex medical problems. Most had never enjoyed some of the many every day simple pleasures in life that we are so used to.
Earlier this week, the facility came up with an idea to allow the families to spend time with their children, away from their regular hospital like setting. For many of these children, other than transportation between medical appointments and their home, they had yet to experience the joy of basking in the sun while taking in scenic views, something we all take for granted.
The complexity of arranging such a trip was astounding. The amount of detail involved to make this a successful and safe journey was breathtaking. Multiple ambulances with medical personnel to assist the children would be required for the journey. Each child required their own unique arrangements to ensure that all their needs were met. Bags were packed anticipating any possible issue for each child. Extra staff was brought in for the day to provide adequate coverage. Contingency plans were created in case any issues arose. And then the phone calls began.
The facility turned to Hatzoloh to transform the idea into a reality. In no time at all, 7 ambulances from Boro Park, Canarsie, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Williamsburg were staffed with EMT’s and Paramedics volunteering during their work day to help transport these precious children. Additional ambulettes and ambulances were provided by various other private agencies to make sure there was room for everyone.
Finally, it was time. The energy was palpable. Lists were checked and rechecked. Children were assigned to specific ambulances and crews. And then they were off. The caravan travelled together to Sunset Park to Pier 4 where many of the children were met by their parents. There was not a dry eye to be seen. The many photos that were taken by bystanders cannot do justice to the raw emotion portrayed by those lucky enough to participate and witness this monumental event. For a short period of time, the families of these children were able to feel like a normal family, if but for a few minutes.
There were many parts to this event. Much thanks go to the unsung heroes, the incredible staff at the facility, who demonstrated their professionalism, love and caring for each of their children, as well as to the members of Hatzoloh who gave time from their busy schedule to help make this happen. A special thanks go to the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau for their assistance in assuring that the event ran smoothly, Flatbush Shomrim who assisted in ensuring the convoy traveled smoothly and efficiently, and NYPD Clergy Liaison Rabbi Abe Rosenberg.
The Tashlich memories created this year will last for a lifetime.