Mar 20, 2017
My Older Brother, Ari Halberstam

Sara Gutnick describes how she grappled with the terror attack on her older brother, Ari Halberstam, on his yartzeit.

By Sara Gutnick (nee Halberstam)

You may have heard the popular adage made famous by the late author and lecturer Richard Carlson, "Don't sweat the small stuff." Well, I'd like to challenge that notion and offer a different perspective on it.

I am the second child in our family of five siblings. I had an older brother by two years, named Ari Halberstam. In general, we lived our life filled with the average 'small stuff' that make up day-to-day living. Parts of our life was 'big stuff', like the fact that my father was the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka's caretaker and so we often spent time playing in the Lubavitcher Rebbe's house - that was not ordinary and certainly special. But most of it was all 'small stuff'.

One regular March day, in the middle of a freezing, blizzardly winter in 1994, I was in the ninth grade, sitting in my Tanya class. One of the girls who had been outside the classroom came in and started whispering, "Bochurim have been shot on the Brooklyn Bridge one may be a Halberstam boy" I heard it, but I didn't imagine for a second that it was my own brother. I sat there confused, a bit shaken, waiting to hear more. I continued to listen to my teacher teach the lesson.

A few minutes later, my aunt, who is the assistant Principal in my former High School, came to the classroom door and called me out. I knew then. I just cried and cried and went to my locker to get my things while she waited. We both didn't know exactly what had happened but I knew we were going home, going to a hospital and something really scary had just occurred.

The next few days were a blur of hospital visits, people coming and going in our home, me seeing my super-strong and handsome, 6-foot-tall brother wired up to machines in the trauma unit of St Vincent's Hospital. They said he was brain dead. He didn't look it to me. He was the same person. My mind couldn't comprehend such big stuff. Just last night we had been bickering over small stuff. He reminded me that I was being bossy as usual. I remember admiring that he was heading out into the cold to a study session late at night while I was staying put in our warm home.

There is so much of the big stuff. Like how Ari's heart didn't stop beating until all of us siblings had had a chance to come to the hospital to see him one last timelike how thousands of people came to his funeral and people stopped their cars on the highway to pay their respects. Big, big stuff. Like how then President Bill Clinton called our home to give his condolences and how we now know that Ari was killed in a premeditated terrorist attack that was meant to target the Rebbe in a revenge attack for the Chevron massacre that had occurred only days earlier in Israel. Big, big stuff. Federal-level stuff. International terrorism stuff.

But for little fourteen-year-old me, all I wanted was for Ari to come home and go back to doing normal small stuff. All I wanted was for life to go back to the way it was before all this big stuff had happened.

But, as things go, we were about to start a new normal. With new big stuff and new small stuff. Big stuff like criminal court cases, new State terrorism laws being drafted, and the building of a multi-million dollar Jewish Children's museum dedicated to Ari's memory (all to my amazing mother's credit) and small stuff like how to relate to my classmates who had no idea about such big stuff. And all the many small stuff that go into the grieving process of putting one foot in front of the other. Day by singular day. Moment by singular moment.

Many years have passed. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. I graduated, got married, had children, lived in three countries and grew to be a mother of teenagers myself and all I have learned is that it's all about the small stuff. Those are the moments we remember. Those are the things that count. Those are what memories are made of.

Sure, don't sweat the small stuff, but just know - it's really all about the small stuff. Make the small stuff count. Make them memory-worthy. The littlest things make the biggest impact. Every single day is made up of so many such moments. So many opportunities to make the small stuff matter. Look for them. Do the small stuff.

I can regale you with so many memories and stories about Ari. Small stuff that are really big, big stuff life lessons. But I won't be prescriptive and tell you exactly how to notice the small stuff. Be a noticer. Grab those opportunities that present themselves to you to make a small moment, a great moment, a memorable moment.

On that fateful morning when Ari was going to Manhattan to pray for the Rebbe's health, Ari got up very, very early. Like, still-dark-outside early. As he was preparing to leave the house, my mother woke up to prepare a baby bottle for my little brother. She looked at Ari wordlessly as he left the house. They exchanged glances but said nothing to each other. She had her last, brief glimpse of her healthy, beautiful, teenage boy.

You never know when will be that last hello, good morning or good night. Make them count because all we want now is to say a simple hello to Ari.

Tuesday, 23 Adar is Ari's Yahrtzeit. Please do an extra mitzvah - good deed - in his memory.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
So inspirational
It's all about the "small things"
(3/20/2017 6:14:23 PM)
Thank you for sharing
Beautifully writte
(3/20/2017 6:30:21 PM)
Hashem Yerachem
Just listen to the audio for the first time and I am shaking...
I Remember when it happened but this call is frightening to listen to.
(3/20/2017 6:45:44 PM)
So sad
May His memory bless
(3/20/2017 6:50:35 PM)
to Sara and family
Beautifully written and very inspiring
May hashem give you and family strength and ability to transform your/our enormous loss into a great force of hope care love joy and progress for the good of all in the memory of Ari HY"D ....
(3/20/2017 6:59:57 PM)
Thank you so much for that
(3/20/2017 7:00:29 PM)
Painfully Beautiful
Thank you for sharing and reminding us all I enjoy it all... Especially the small stuff
(3/20/2017 7:30:28 PM)
So horrible
Listening to this was gut-wrenching. One can only imagine the sheer horror, the shock of that terrible day.
Hashem Yinkom Domo.
Ad Mosai. Moshiach Now.
(3/20/2017 7:36:39 PM)
Thank you Sara
Thank you Sara, for sharing.
May all your tears be turned to joy very soon when
Moshiach comes and we will see Ari again.
(3/20/2017 7:43:21 PM)
..... sad........ ........ No words......
(3/20/2017 7:45:33 PM)
What a beautiful article by such a beautiful person. I cried the whole way through reading this. Sara, you should only have simchos, youre such a special person to all who know you, I cant help admire your exceptional dedication to your family and especially to your husband in his invaluable work here as well as other chesed work you do here so unassumingly. I'm sure Ari is very proud of you and your wonderful family. May Hashem bless you with all the brochos in the world!
(3/20/2017 8:14:54 PM)
Beautfiully written!
Thank you for sharing!
(3/20/2017 8:26:34 PM)
Beautiful picture
It's just priceless. I am so very sorry no words
(3/20/2017 8:45:48 PM)
Well written
So incredibly written. There are no words. You are so right. Be present in the small stuff. Those are life changing words to live by
(3/20/2017 8:54:52 PM)

Just remember is on his way I wouldn't b able 2live without thinking of , we suffer enough enough!!!!!
(3/20/2017 9:09:43 PM)
Al taharas hakodesh
Thank you for sharing this story

It's the big and small stuff

Crown heights is so lucky to have your mom who has not slept since the trajedy.
(3/20/2017 9:15:40 PM)
So beitifiul.
It's really the small things.

Phone call was terrifying.. thinking what the poor bochrim were going through until Hatzalah came made me gasp!!
Every second must have been and hour. They are so brave.
(3/20/2017 9:28:26 PM)
I really loved it, it was so well written .. Thank you for sharing!
(3/20/2017 9:45:14 PM)
to Sara
You mentioned you have many stories and memories about Ari. Perhaps you could share them with us, make a blog or book about it. I want to hear them all.
(3/20/2017 10:22:16 PM)
His Neshama should have an Aliya
Crying. No words. I was driving on the bridge that morning while it was happening. I will never forget.
(3/20/2017 10:26:12 PM)
To number 11
Could not agree more!

Yasherkoach for the inspirational words
(3/20/2017 10:35:18 PM)
Thank you for sharing
Beautifully writte
(3/21/2017 12:20:56 AM)
You are beautiful and carry Ari in your every word. Thank you for sharing.
(3/21/2017 1:54:22 AM)
Thank you for the article
We have all been affected and impacted by the Brooklyn Bridge horror! No words ..... our hugs and tefillos are with the family who hurt daily ...... May Hashem bring Moshiach immediately and heal klal yisroel.
May Ari memory be for a blessing.
Besuros tovos
(3/21/2017 4:04:47 AM)
Well written
Great article! Thanks for sharing
(3/21/2017 4:19:22 AM)
Sara Halberstam
Hi Sara -

We went to Camp Emunah together for a few years. I remember hearing the news about your brother, I remember where I was standing and what I was doing. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. Thanks for writing something so beautiful and inspirational for your brother's yarzheit. May it be an Aliyah for his neshama. Sending your hugs.

Ilana (Wilson) Soffer
(3/21/2017 4:30:40 AM)
Sara this is amazing
You've taken us there and then on your journey to really seeing and appreciating life for the gift it is.
Your writing is so real.
Thank you and may Hashem bless you with everything you desire especially to meet your brother again
(3/21/2017 5:47:31 AM)
You nailed it!
Thank you. We understand. Too well. And we remember. May G-d take us out of Golus. Now.
(3/21/2017 6:22:45 AM)
no words very nicely written
Cant stop crying, its all about the small stuff!!
(3/21/2017 6:53:32 AM)
Video (audio)
Is horrifying. Sheer terror. Living nightmare.
What a brave driver.

Thank you for sharing, Sara.
May Ari's neshama have an aliya and may Hashem avenge his blood.

Chanie, I saved the poem you wrote in the "literary lights" for the longest time "my dear brother I bemoan".
May we have the ultimate nechama with the coming of Moshiach now.
(3/21/2017 6:54:51 AM)
Thanks for helping me remember what's important in life!
(3/21/2017 7:16:58 AM)
Beautifully written
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I also remember when it happened, our tefillas were with the Bochurim daily. Ari should have an aliyah and we should all merit to see him back soon with the coming of our righteous Moshiach Z'dkeinu B'Karov Mamosh!!
(3/21/2017 7:31:57 AM)
Doing extra mitzvah today and then some
Thank you for writing this, I along with the thousands who read this post are thinking of Ari and not only doing extra mitzvahsbut reevaluating and taking stock of our minds/learning/ commitment all because of Ari.
(3/21/2017 8:11:39 AM)
Bringing back the memories of that day....
Wow, I'm crying. I remember hearing about Ari, and feeling so angry about it. It felt very personal to me, it was a big deal in our house. Of course I never heard of him before. But since that day, he has always been a hero in my young mind - I was a 6 year old little girl on Shluchos in rural America. But it shook us to our core.
Thank you for sharing.
(3/21/2017 10:58:08 AM)
This was composed right after this horrific tragedy, yet so appropriate today. May he plead and win the Geula for us all.

A treasure chest of precious gems, diamonds, rubies and of pearls
His laughter, his joy his wisdom unfurled,
For the Rebbe and Rebbetzin he'd turn over ah velt,
No greater devotion from a chosid could be felt.

And on that fateful day
for his manhig he did pray
and thanked Hashem with all his heart
but was soon torn apart,

Hashem how could you see
a child as sweet as he
be shattered and totally betrayed (swiftly blown away)

But as we now approach that very special day
with the miracles Hashem will soon display
when Arry will be with us once again forever
Learning Torah from his Rebbe
singing, dancing joyously
basking in the Glory
In Yerusholayim Habnuyoh
(3/21/2017 1:31:31 PM)
Thank you!
Thank u Sarah for reminding us how precious the small stuff should be!
(3/21/2017 3:37:33 PM)
So inspirational
(3/21/2017 4:31:20 PM)
A Moment Frozen In Time
As a young mother living in Crown Heights at the time, I recall those traumatic times as if they just happened. I remember going to be menachem avel Mrs. Halberstam. I remember her as a beautiful young woman standing downstairs at a sicha for women. She stood out in the crowd with her radiant beauty and refinement. Every time we drive in to N.Y. from Canada and we pass that spot on the bridge, I never fail to remember Ari and say for my kids to hear " Hamokom Yinkom Dam Avodecha
Hashofooch bmkom zeh". We shall never forget!! Zechor!!
(3/21/2017 5:33:58 PM)
So Special.
Sara, your words really hit home. What a special write-up. Thank you for the inspiration
(3/21/2017 6:34:12 PM)
Thank you so much!!
We all need these inspiring messages to treasure each moment we have with each other. May we merit the immediate redemption and see our loved ones again.
(3/21/2017 7:09:42 PM)
Utterly stunning.
Gut wrenching. I'm in tears. His neshama should have an Aliya.
(3/21/2017 9:49:34 PM)
May his Neshama have an Aliyah
Iyh will do something extra in his honor
(3/21/2017 10:26:16 PM)
No words !!!
There are no words to describe this horrific episode! Absolutely NO words!!! May Ari's neshomo have an Aliya , and may the family have a nechomo. Hashem yinkom domo!!!
(3/24/2017 7:28:26 AM)
What's Your Opinion? Post a Comment

Your Comment:

Comments must be approved before being published. Thank You!

Make COLive your homepage | Contact Us
© 2018