The children of America's Camp

September 9, 2011 1:48:11 PM PDT
They come from all walks of life, but are bound by a common tragedy.

They are the children of the victims killed on September 11. For one week out of the year for the last ten years, they escape to the rolling hills of the Berkshire Mountains to America's camp. The only requirement here is to be a kid and have fun.

"We wanted to do is give them a fun experience and support them when they need some relief and that combination with a lot of dancing like nobody is watching resulted in the best packaging of healing in the world," Jay Toporoff said.

There's also canoeing across the lake, beating drums with friends, hanging out at the beach, or you can just be in your own thoughts while fishing, and sometimes those thoughts are too much to bear

"One of the things we learned early on is that the kids were labeled. They were 9/11 kids . Their story was being told everyday on tv, rado and newspapers, and they just wanted to be alone. They just wanted to get away," co-founder Larry Levy said.

They came to this camp. Step-by-step they've learned how to face their grief and tackle life's brutal punches.

They've learned that joy and sorrow can live side by side.

"It helped me cope through it and just meeting people and not just be angry all the time and sad," Josh Burke said.

Ten years later, they've healed and have formed lifelong friendships.

"One of my best friends since we met the first day of camp when we were 13. We talk every day. We visit each other at school and college. We're always going to be friends," Michelle Mathai said.

This is the last year of the camp. Most of the campers who were just children when the camp began are now young adults.

"The silver lining out of the crazy terror of 9/11 is this wonderful America's Camp family that was created here for the last ten years. If they can take those positive vibes and pass them on to people in their lives, then I think we've done more than accomplish our work here," Toporoff said.

To commemorate this experience at America's Camp and the 10th anniversary of September 11, the campers created a memorial encompassing their losses and their memories of this place.