‘We have proven that hate has no place here’

| 27 Sep 2017 | 07:45

Ashley Craig, the Wantage resident who organized an online fundraising campaign after the local Airport Diner was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, can't say enough about how thankful she is to the community for coming together so quickly and being so generous.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, black spray-painted Swastikas, “Heil Hitler,” and “Kill Jews” were found covering the walls of the County Road 639 diner. The shed and outdoor freezer also were broken into, and all of the food products and supplies that were inside were destroyed.
But in less than a week, more than $3,297 was raised for Francisco “Frankie” Blanco, the owner of the Airport Diner for 12 years.
On Monday, Craig met with Blanco, Robin Nargiso, the diner manager, and Blanco’s son Andres, “the fibers that make up this awesome Diner we all know and love,” to hand over the donated funds.
“Each and every one of them was so incredibly grateful,” Craig said. “No one can believe the total is over $3,000. It's so exciting and we all spoke significantly about and reflected on how amazing it was to be a part of this community.”
Craig said she had printed out the total amount fundraised and handed it to Frankie, who just kept pulling it closer to him and smiling, saying probably 100 times, “Thank you so much. I just can't believe it. It's too kind. Too much."
“I replied, ‘This community, we all love and respect you, your staff, and this diner so much,’” Craig said. “‘You deserve this and I'm simply so happy and excited we were able to do this for you.’”
Other acts of supportEarlier on Friday, Sept. 22, two lawmakers — Rep. Josh Gottheimer and state Sen. Steve Oroho — met for breakfast at the Airport Diner in a bipartisan display of solidarity with the diner staff and the community.
“There should be nothing political or partisan about how we treat one another,” Gottheimer posted on Facebook after the meeting. “As we discussed this morning, America was founded on, and remains, the land of opportunity for all people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. Our Jersey values are the same. Whether you are Irish or Italian, Jewish or Christian, gay or straight, Black or Latino, the same Lady Liberty welcomed us all to America's shores, as a symbol of opportunity for all.”
And then on Sunday afternoon, a “Unity Vigil Against Hate” was held on the Green in Newton to condemn the vandalism.
No new informationAs of Wednesday, there was no new information in the case, according to NJ State Police. No arrests have been made, according to Lt. Theodore Schafer, and the investigation is still ongoing.
Schafer said that he is not aware of any recent incidents similar to this in the Sussex County area, but they have occurred in other parts of the state, specifically in Ocean County.
Anyone with information regarding the Airport Diner incident is asked to contact the NJ State Police Sussex Barracks at 973-383-1515.
As Craig, Blanco, Nargiso, and Andres, sat with their coffees in the Aiport Diner on Monday and talked about moving forward, Craig said all four of them echoed this sentiment:
“We have proven that hate has no place here, and we have done that together, very quickly. At the end of the day, Love Always Wins.”