2013-07-04 / Front Page

Woman unites survivors of terrorism

Sarri Singer survived bus bombing in Israel
By Clare Marie Celano

Sarri Singer was the victim of a bus bombing in Israel in 2003, but nothing about this woman says “victim mentality.”


In fact, it is just the opposite— Singer is a survivor.


The suicide bombing killed 16 people and could have led some people to shut down in fear, but Singer, who is a native of Lakewood, has refused to give in to what she called a “terrorist’s goal.”


“A terrorism attack is meant to make us afraid,” Singer said. “They want to paralyze us. If I did not go back to Israel, the terrorists would have won.”


Singer has, in fact, returned to Israel.


“I have a deep connection to the land and the country and to the people of Israel who took such good care of me when I was alone, burning, bleeding and frightened,” Singer said.


In response to that life-changing experience a decade ago, Singer created Strength to Strength, which brings together victims of terrorism so they can help each other heal.


Strength to Strength has several programs, including a Young Ambassadors Program that brings survivors of terrorism to the United States for a respite and a chance to connect with one another.


The Survivors Circle offers monthly programs that are designed to allow survivors of terrorism and their families to connect in a safe, empowering and healing environment.


Singer is the daughter of state Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer, Burlington) and Judie Singer. The couple are divorced.


In an interview, Singer recalled June 11, 2003, the day she was in Jerusalem and enroute to dinner with a friend. She sat down in the front of a bus and moments later a person who was standing in the bus set off explosives that were strapped to his body, blowing up himself and those around him. The bombing took place near the city’s main Mahane Yehuda marketplace on Jaffa Road.


Singer said 16 people were murdered in the blast, plus the bomber, identified as a Palestinian teenager. She said 100 people were injured in the area around the bus.


Singer was injured by shrapnel in her shoulder and mouth, and the thunderous noise of the explosion punctured both of her eardrums. She has a slight hearing loss in her left ear, which is permanent.


In the aftermath of the attack, Singer created Strength to Strength to support victims of terrorism around the world with long-term psychological needs through regular meetings, provision of information and advice, and raising awareness of the unmet needs of victims and their families. Strength to Strength enables victims of terrorism to share experiences and empowers them to live life to their best potential.”


According to its website, the mission of Strength to Strength is “to bring victims of terrorism together globally in order to share their experiences and move forward with their lives despite the trauma they have been through. Few understand how a single terror attack can affect so many families on such a deep level physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.”


Singer began helping survivors of terrorism long before she herself became one. In 2011, she was working in an office building in lower Manhattan when terrorists struck the World Trade Center. Although she overslept on the morning of Sept. 11 and was not at work, the incident impacted her to the point that she later traveled to Israel and began working with survivors of terrorism.


Despite the horrific memories she keeps within herself, Singer has since visited Israel numerous times, including this year for the 10th anniversary of the bus bombing. She shared the emotions she experienced.


“I did not ride the bus on the June 11 anniversary this year, but I did ride the light rail which is now on the street where the attack took place. I took it one stop from the stop where the attack happened. I was not alone and it was difficult getting on, but I wanted to do it because it was the 10th anniversary of the bombing,” she said.


In July 2012, Singer returned to Jerusalem and got on a bus that was taking the same route as the bus she was on in June 2003. With her for support were her mom, her friends and someone from Hadassah Hospital, where she was treated for her injuries 10 years ago.


“They were all a huge support for me,” she said. “I rode it two stops. When I got on the bus, it was very emotional and very hard. The tears were there, but then I took a deep breath and calmed down when we arrived at the first stop. After the bus started heading to the second stop, I felt like I could not stay on any longer so I got off at the second stop.”


In an interview, Judie Singer, who was a basic skills instructor at the Crawford-Rodriguez Elementary School, Jackson, said, “I am so grateful my daughter is still alive. Sarri is her own person and she is not afraid to say what she feels. She feels very strongly toward Israel and Judaism.”


She said her daughter’s devotion to her religion and its spiritual home, Israel, is a lifelong commitment.


Sarri attended the Bezalel Hebrew Day School/Hammer Junior High School, Lakewood, and she graduated from Lakewood High School.


She attended Kean College, Union, majoring in psychology. She left after one year to pursue religious studies at Neve College, Jerusalem, then re­turned to the United States and graduated from Touro College, New York City, completing a psychol­ogy major.


Today, Sarri works at Touro College as the assistant director of career services.


She said she is compelled to help other victims of terrorism.


“Anytime (a terrorist attack) happens in the world, it brings me back to the day of my own attack and I am reminded of the days, weeks, months and years ahead for so many victims and family members,” Singer said.


She said the strong support system of her family members and friends has helped her to do everything she has done.


“Bringing survivors of terrorism together globally to heal assists survivors in their recovery and lets them know we are not alone,” Singer said. “Knowing that they are not alone and that others understand what they have been through is critical for them.


“I am always inspired by the help that victims offer one other. When I see how supportive we are of one another, during the tough times, whether it is a holiday for a bereaved family or the date of the attack, that kind of help is what inspires me to keep doing what I am doing,” she said.


The Young Ambassadors Program brings survivors of terrorism between the ages of 14 and 20 from many nations to New York City to share time with one another and to help them heal and empower themselves, so they may return home with an eye toward a better future.


Singer is able to see how the programs help the victims and their family members move forward and that fuels her as she continues her work with victims and proceeds with her own recovery as well.


Anyone who would like to support Strength to Strength may visit the website at www.stosglobal.org.

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