[EXCLUSIVE TO YWN & YATED USA] (VIDEO LINK AT END OF ARTICLE) On Monday, Rabbi Chaim Boruch (Edgar) Gluck, the noted askan and chaplain to the New York City Police Department, during an interview conducted by YeshivaWorld, related a fascinating incident in which Senator John McCain went above and beyond the call of duty to protect the dignity of five Jewish bodies after an awful helicopter accident in Nevada.
Rabbi Gluck related that shortly after the accident, which occurred late on an Erev Shabbos some six years ago, he was contacted. He was told that a helicopter had clipped something as it was flying over a cliff and had caught fire. The five frum Jews aboard were killed, r”l. Rabbi Gluck quickly contacted the police before Shabbos and worked to obtain medical x-rays so the bodies could be identified. The police continued to call over Shabbos and Rabbi Gluck did whatever could be done in the interim.
Rabbi Gluck was in touch with the medical examiner in the local town and related that it was of utmost importance for him to be able to look at the niftarim to determine if a tahara could be done on-site. Rabbi Gluck also made clear that no autopsies would be allowed to be performed. The medical examiner told Rabbi Gluck that a good place to take the bodies would be Phoenix, Arizona, as one of the best morgues in that part of the country is located there.
The medical examiner related that the morgue generally closes at noon. He also said that he had conversed with then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who said that he had spoken to Rabbi Gluck who explained how important it is to the Jewish people not to let the bodies lie around and to get them to burial within 24 hours.
Rabbi Gluck and his team loaded the bodies from the makeshift morgue into a van and brought them, with the x-rays, to the airport to be flown on a private plane to Phoenix. The plane encountered a number of sandstorms and initially couldn’t move at all. Rabbi Gluck received a phone call and the medical examiner was startled, as they were out in the desert where there is generally no phone service. “You heard a phone ring?” asked the examiner.” “Yes, it’s my phone,” said Rabbi Gluck, who answered the call.
It was Senator John McCain of Arizona on the line.
“He called to say that they want to close the morgue at around 1 or 2 oclock on Sunday afternoon,” related Rabbi Gluck, “and we might not make it there on time.” The medical examiner would not wait for us and said that maybe tomorrow he’ll take a look.”
“Can your plane fly to Phoenix?” said McCain.
“Yes,” said Rabbi Gluck.
They landed in Phoenix and the local medical examiner had vans ready to take the bodies to the morgue. Tremendous respect was displayed to the niftarim.
The chief medical examiner turned to Rabbi Gluck and said, “I understand that you are an expert in these things.”
“I have been working on it for forty years,” responded Rabbi Gluck. “I am the staff of the NYC medical examiner, special assistant to the medical examiner for religious affairs, and I do work on these things and get calls from all over the world.” “All right,” responded the examiner. “I was just told by Senator McCain, and his chief of staff who is standing by and gave you his home number, that I cannot leave until the bodies are released from Arizona, and you are on your way back to New York City. When the rabbi goes home, the senator said, we can go home.”
Rabbi Gluck eventually left with the bodies at about 4 o’clock in the morning. Rabbi Gluck later told the chief of staff to thank his boss and tell him how much his efforts meant to the Jewish community.
“It is incumbent on me and the people of our beliefs,” said Rabbi Gluck, “to show hakoras hatov, to show appreciation, to someone who went out of his way so far, so that bodies should not be trampled, should not be cut for nothing, and we should be able to make five funerals at one shot one day later. All that is something that we owe Mr. McCain.”
VIDEO LINK: Click HERE to watch this exclusive YWN video.