On Saturday, August 24, Rafael D. Perez, 44, a veteran security officer for SAR Academy, was killed in a motor vehicle accident. In a message to the SAR community, Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss stated, “It is with profound sadness that we inform you of the tragic death of SAR Academy’s longtime security guard, Rafi Perez. Rafi tragically died in a car accident when traveling home from Florida this past weekend with family and friends. We continue to pray for the recovery of his wife and others who were injured in this accident.”
According to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, a van carrying 14 people was headed north to the New York-New Jersey area from Florida when the driver ran off the road and hit a tree around 9:30 p.m. Troopers believe the driver may have nodded off.
On August 26, as the SAR staff gathered to prepare for the opening of the new school year, Rabbi Krauss notified his teachers and staff of the news. The school’s employees gathered that day for a brief service in the beit midrash to honor Rafi and to pray together for his family. The service, which was attended by 150 teachers and staff, also included Perez’s colleagues on the security and maintenance teams. Rabbi Krauss spoke about the fact that Halacha views protection of human life as a holy endeavor, and that “Rafi, by virtue of his protecting children, was a holy person.” Krauss continued, “He was dedicated, professional, caring and loving with us through chaotic snowstorms, bus delays and the regular day to day. Every kid knew him.”
Detailing the service, Rabbi Krauss described, “We read a few paragraphs of tehillim, sang a few appropriate songs and opened the floor for people to share their memories.” Krauss added, “We sent a condolence memo to SAR parents. Within an hour, over $5000 came in to support his family.”
“For over 15 years, Rafi protected our students, faculty and building,” Rabbi Krauss stated in an email to the SAR community. “We are indebted to his dedication and love for our children.” Last Purim, one academy student chose to dress up as a crossing guard. Explaining his costume, the child commented, “Heroes keep people safe and that’s what security guards do, too.”
By Judy Berger