- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

BLAIRSTOWN, N.J. Between navigating rope courses and roasting marshmallows, the children at the weekend camp sometimes stopped to talk about why they were there the terrorist attacks on September 11.
One girl, clutching a blanket and occasionally sucking her thumb, said she was sad because her father's body was never found in the rubble of the World Trade Center.
"I worry that something really, really bad happened to him," she said. "He was my dad, and I only got to spend seven years with him."
Each child at Comfort Zone Camp in the woods of northwest New Jersey lost a parent in the terrorist attacks.
Many of them attended Comfort Zone day camps in the months after the attacks, and their grief had changed drastically since then, said Jean Skrincosky, a social worker and camp volunteer.
The campers, ages 6 to 17, attend twice-daily "healing circles" to share their feelings.
"The first healing circle was very emotional and very filled with anger at the terrorist act," Miss Skrincosky said. "Now they're able to focus on their emotions about the death, instead of just the shock and anger at the attack."
Separated by age into small groups, the children revealed memories about lost loved ones and fears about the future. Several children said they were scared of another attack; one girl said she was worried that her mother would run out of money.
Many recounted happy memories of their fathers dugout seats at a Yankees game, a skiing trip to Utah. One described time spent chatting when her father returned from work.
"Now, after dinner, it's just a normal boring time," she said.
The number of children who lost a parent in the September 11 terrorist attacks was not known, but the bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald alone estimated its more than 650 victims left 1,300 children.
"A lot of them are attention-starved, because their parents are preoccupied with their own grief," camp founder Lynne Hughes said. "This gives them a chance to feel less isolated."
Miss Hughes and her volunteer staff have held retreats for grieving children since 1999. Based in Richmond, Va., the nonprofit Comfort Zone Camp raises more than $50,000 a year through corporate donations and fund-raisers.
Eamon Stewart, 12, said he felt better after talking about his father, Michael, a commodities trader who died in the trade center.
"It's just that everybody here experienced what I experienced," the Montclair resident said. "It's different than at home."
Although the healing circles were a focal point of Comfort Zone Camp, more than 30 adult volunteers tried to make the weekend a lighthearted getaway.
"We're not going to sit around all day wearing black," said Kelly Hughes, Lynne's husband. "We're going to have some fun."
Hilary Strauch, a 12-year-old from Avon by the Sea, said the activities helped take her mind off her father, George.
"I don't feel like people are thinking about my problem," she said.

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