Dollars & Sense



If you're like me, when you think of a publication like Money, you imagine it being filled with articles about discovering your home's secret financial potential, as well as with guides to the best hedge funds and reasons to buy that second home as a wise investment — which is generally the case.

So when I ran across a piece titled "Collateral Damage" that appeared in the January issue, I was totally taken aback. Here was a story about filmmaker Jack Baxter, who was making a documentary in Tel Aviv when he was almost killed by a suicide bomber — in Money magazine of all places. It was a walloping piece, filled with drama and lots of financial information, as you might expect in such a venue — though I will never again think of Money in quite the same way.

Baxter was shooting his documentary in a Tel Aviv bar called Mike's Place, which reporter Stephen Gandel described as being frequented by Jews and Muslims, and which the filmmaker thought of as "offering a hopeful view of the Middle East. But on April 30, 2003, as he chatted with a waitress, a suicide bomber approached the bar. The next few moments rewrote Baxter's film and changed his life forever."

Baxter was thrown across the bar by the blast, leaving him lying on the stage, burned and unconscious, all of which may have saved his life. "The waitress he'd been talking to had her left arm blown off and bled to death in the arms of the bar's owner. Two members of the band died as well. Baxter's camera man, who wasn't injured, caught the ambulance arriving and was there three days later with the camera rolling, when Baxter awoke in a Tel Aviv hospital, paralyzed on his left side and nearly deaf, with no memory of the bombing."

Baxter made a significant recovery over four years. His hearing was restored. He can walk, sometimes even without a cane. "Doctors have not, however, been able to remove all of the so-called organic shrapnel — pieces of the bomber that still remain imbedded in Baxter's skin, creating bumps along his left side from his calf to his shoulder. 'I carry this guy around with me,' he says."

The monetary devastation was also significant. "Before the bombing, Baxter, 54, and his wife Fran Strauss-Baxter, 55, a graphic artist, were solidly middle class. Together they earned $90,000 a year and had $70,000 invested for retirement. They didn't own their own home, but the rent on their large … apartment in New York City was a mere $1,000 a month … They went out to dinner regularly and could even afford small luxuries … .

"But a year after the bombing, they were broke. Fran had quit her job to take care of Jack, who could no longer work. Rehabilitation cost money. They ran through their savings and amassed nearly $20,000 in credit-card debt. Jack cashed in his life insurance policy. The couple even had to go on food stamps."

Here's a horror story about disability, with the tragedy ratcheted up by the fact that Baxter insisted on finishing his movie, despite the daunting hurdles that faced him.


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