Zach Fried entered the world too soon and left it the same way.
When he was born nearly 10 weeks premature with severe medical problems, doctors operated and gave him one transfusion after another, not knowing that the blood intended to save his life was infected with the AIDS virus.
Zach died of the disease last December at the age of 5.
On Monday, pupils and teachers at the private Oak School in Hollywood, where he would have attended kindergarten, dedicated their tiny library to Zach's memory. Several of the children had attended preschool with Zach.
There were banana muffins and cherry cider. There were a few tears. And there was the reality that AIDS, which has so far claimed 43,900 lives nationwide, does not discriminate, not even against innocent little boys who love trains and kites.
Still Part of the School
"When someone dies, you feel a lot of sadness," Director Deborah Wyle told the 40 or so children--kindergartners through third-graders--who attend Oak School. "Naming the library after Zach gives us a place for him to still be a part of our school."
She showed them his picture and tried to explain his illness. They may not have understood that which claimed Zach's life, but they remembered the qualities that made him their friend. "He mostly always had a smile on his face," said 5-year-old Clay Stranger. "He made me smile."
His former teacher, Gail Draper, said, "You could call him indomitable."
The only child of composer Gerald Fried and his fashion designer wife, Annabelle Kaufman Fried, Zach was born Aug. 29, 1982, and underwent hernia surgery within hours. One or more of the 27 blood transfusions he received while on the operating table was tainted with the AIDS virus.
"They didn't screen blood back then," his mother said. "There was no way they could have known. There was no one to blame."
Her son seemed to suffer one inexplicable medical problem after another. He had a cold that never seemed to go away and he ultimately underwent a tracheotomy. His growth lagged far behind that of his playmates. Finally, when he was 4, Zach was diagnosed as having AIDS.
By then, he had already proven himself an eager pupil and a promising artist, according to his parents. He cherished books about trains and sketched dozens of pictures every day. Near the end of his life, Gail Draper recalled, Zach turned more and more to drawing kites floating serenely above the earth.
His Own Spirit
It was as if Zach were depicting his own spirit soaring toward the heavens, no longer encumbered by the pain of an illness that worsened each day.
After he died, his parents produced a line of T-shirts with Zach's drawings. They plan to donate the proceeds to the fight against AIDS.
"He was a great kid," Annabelle Fried said Monday, as Zach's former playmates ate their muffins and chased each other. "It's hard to believe he's gone."