A moving story from The Boston Globe reports on a summer camp in western Massachusetts that has, since 2002, been a source of support and much-needed fun for kids whose parents died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Because the kids are aging out of "America's Camp"--many original campers are now serving as counselors or counselors-in-training--this, the 10th anniversary of the attacks, will be the camp's last summer.
For campers, the 10th anniversary marks the end of an era.
"The friends you make here,'' says Michelle Mathai, a senior at Colby College, "have an understanding of each other no one else has. And it's the first time people treated us as normal kids.''
Some campers note that they've known their friends at America's Camp longer than they knew their lost parent.
Michelle was 11, Robert was 9, when their father, Joseph, died in the World Trade Center, where he was attending a business meeting. The following summer, America's Camp opened. The idea was to give children who had lost a parent in the terrorist attacks a haven where they could escape the grief and curiosity that dogged them.
Seventy-eight children showed up that first summer. Later the camp welcomed a handful of children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty during the past decade. This year there are 170 campers between ages 7 and 15 - and 105 former campers who are now counselors or counselors in training.
Michelle Mathai is in charge of 9-year-old through 11-year-old campers.
"It's been funny meeting kids who are the same age now as I was when it happened,'' she says. "They didn't know their parent, but they've grown up with a sense of exactly what happened.''
Each August, many of the children return for a week. They have laughed, cried, and formed close bonds. During the year, many keep up with one another and arrange get-togethers. Some say they consider camp a second home, their fellow campers and the counselors a second family.
(image via: http://www.americascamp.org/)