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Review: Spring 2004 Heroes Hike - The Long Walk
NY Heroes Staff
photos by Chad Johnson and Lee Sandstead

May 20, 2004

Dr. Bernstein - Spring 2004 Heroes Hike May 16th marked the first NY Heroes Society hike on the east bank of the Hudson River north of Cold Spring, NY. Although there have been several previous hikes with inspiring talks and discussions led by Dr. Andrew Bernstein, this was the first held under the auspices of the New York Heroes Society. Robert Begley, the president and founder of the society, opened the meeting at the summit of “Devil’s Ladder” by welcoming the 38 participants and congratulating them on making it to the top. On the way up, Lee Sandstead and George Barker had stepped on the summit first, and so far ahead of others that Lee was napping on a large rock as the last of the group began arriving. One of the sturdiest and experienced climbers, Aret Ozkan, brought up the back of the pack having ensured that those unaccustomed to hiking kept a comfortable pace. All enjoyed good conversation and the beautiful views on the ascent.

The theme of this event was inspired by a Polish soldier, Slavomir Rawicz, who was captured by the Soviets during World War Two and incarcerated in Siberia. “Slav” escaped the prison camp and walked to freedom traversing approximately 4,000 miles on foot. This amazing story was documented in his book The Long Walk. Hence, the hike was dedicated to Mr. Rawicz for his incalculable courage and passion for freedom.

On top of the Devil’s Ladder, the incredible vista encompasses the Hudson River and its lush green valley. Under a blue sky and an occasional pillowy cloud, Robert Begley led a discussion of the book. He thanked Andrew Bernstein for introducing the Long Walk to the NY Heroes Society and invited him to say a few words about the book. Dr. Bernstein recounted his first exposure to the book. He said that although Ernest Shackleton’s story was a greater trial and triumph, Rawicz’s victory was a great inspiration to him. As to whether the story was true or not (there are some claims that it was fabricated), Dr. Bernstein stated that even if it was fabricated, it would not negate its power as a portrayal of human endurance and desire for freedom. Many participants who had read the book in preparation for the event agreed with the point, finding it an inspiring story and eager to know more about Mr. Rawicz who just recently passed away.

A fantastic surprise came as Joel Schottenfeld, a regular on these hikes, stepped up to announce that he has begun a screenplay for Heart of a Pagan, the novel by Andrew Bernstein that inspired the formation of NY Heroes. Joel read a short excerpt on the spot, after which he received hearty applause and cheers. Taking on this type of project is what NY Heroes is all about: advocating human achievement and putting your actions behind it by setting out to achieve something great. NY Heroes wishes all success to Joel on his screenplay, and to Dr. Bernstein for continuing success in his writing.

At the end of the day the 16,900 steps counted by Mrs. Rosemary Gately’s step meter were nowhere close to the staggering distance of Slav’s journey. But these individuals didn’t have to walk so far nor suffer so much to know the importance of the free air that we breathe in and out day after day in this great country, the United States of America.

The group poses with the Celebrate Capitalism flag, at the top of
Devil's Ladder, near Cold Spring, NY.

Copyright 2004: New York Heroes Society, Inc.