Stolen Childhood

Summary: There's a reason why Al Kahn is so determined to unionize Sloan Industries. His passion is rooted in a horrific event from long ago that contributed to a "stolen childhood". "Sinners Reconciled" inspired this very short Homefront story.

Disclaimer: Homefront characters belong to their creators. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is being made. Some of the dialogue that appears in this story is not my own, but belongs to the writer of the Homefront episode "Sinners Reconciled".

Author: Tracy Diane Miller
E-mail address: tdmiller82h...

Stolen Childhood

He could tell that she wasn't happy to see him, but that never stopped Al Kahn before. If he hesitated whenever his appearance made someone uncomfortable or unhappy, he'd
never leave his room in the morning. Still, his intent wasn't to upset or embarrass her, not really; Al just needed for Anne to listen to him.

She was one of the most stubborn dames that he had ever met. Coupled with a deep-seated religious conviction, Al realized that conquering this stubbornness was akin to tackling Mt. Everest. Anne didn't want to be associated with a divorced man. Period.

Anne didn't want to draw any more attention to Al's presence in the drugstore than was necessary so she informed her boss that she was taking her break. But Al didn't wait until they reached outside before he began explaining himself:

"Maybe you think that I get carried away with my work and maybe I do. But maybe I have a reason to. My mother was killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. You can say the event piqued my interest in worker protection and I'm glad to say that bosses don't routinely lock their employees inside factories anymore." Al told her about his ex-wife Marcia and how he remained faithful in his marriage (unlike her late husband). Was it better to have stayed in a bad marriage with a cheating husband than to have gotten a divorce? Which one of them was the sap? Those were the questions that he left her with as he walked away in a huff.

Al returned to his room. He proceeded to his desk, reached into the drawer, and removed a pack of cigarettes. Maybe one day he'd quit smoking, but not today. Lighting the cigarette, he
leaned back against his chair. The memory came rushing back at him, like an angry tidal wave assaulting a virgin shore and contaminating the purity of the white sands. He'd never forget it.

March 25, 1911

Eight-year old Albert Kahn was a resourceful boy. You had to be when you were a tiny Jewish kid living in a tough city like New York and your parents worked all day. He wasn't quite sure what his dad's job was; all he knew was that Dad would leave their tenement before sunrise and returned home very late most nights. Not that Dad was an attentive father when he was around. Albert (most people called him Al) didn't know what it was, but it seemed that whatever he did, he always disappointed his father. Ira Kahn was a difficult man to please and to love.

But he adored his mother. Twenty-eight-old Bessie Kahn looked more like a dancer than an overworked seamstress at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The tall, blonde woman with sparkling blue eyes, carried herself with elegance and grace. Bessie made no secret of how much she loved her little boy. He was her pride and joy. She constantly encouraged him and reminded him that he was destined for a better life. Often over a scant meal of stale bread and potato soup, young Al soaked in his mother's words. Maybe it should have been hard for him to dream, but it wasn't, not when his mother believed in him so much.

Al hated the fact that his mother worked so hard. To help his family out, he hustled odd jobs around the neighborhood. The youngster's "resume' included such positions as shoe shine boy and messenger. So far, he had earned over twenty cents.

The Kahns lived several blocks from the Asch Building (just east of Washington Square Park) where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company operated its factory. Most of the young women who worked there were Jewish immigrants.

On the morning of March 25th, Al had awakened early. Bessie had been up most of the previous night with a very bad cough. Al hated that his mother had to work when she was so sick. That morning, he waited until after his father left for work. He came into his parents' room and presented his earnings to his mother. Al also told her that he didn't want her to go to work today because she was so sick. But Bessie smiled at him and insisted that he keep his money. She kissed him on the forehead and told him how blessed she felt to have such a wonderful, loving, and generous son. She added that she would be fine and that she really needed to go to work. Then, Bessie put on her coat and walked out the door. Al watched her from the front door as she proceeded down the street.

Bessie Kahn never came home that night. She was one of the over one hundred and forty-six women who perished in the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. Many of the workers had been unable to escape because of the company's policy of keeping the doors locked. Some of the young women died when they leaped from the windows trying to escape the flames.

Years later, Al Kahn would become the most passionate advocate for laws protecting the rights of workers. His work would consume him, become part of his life's blood. And inside the very charismatic man still lived that eight-year-old boy who had lost his mother so long ago.

Bessie Kahn would have been very proud of her son.

The End.