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New York City
October 2001

WTC Attack: A View From Stuyvesant HS
by Katarzyna Kozanecka

On Tuesday, September 11, classes at Stuyvesant High School were interrupted by a terrorist attack on the WTC. The view differed from room to room but the reactions were the same: shock, horror, anger, and fear. In a government class on the third floor, students watched the attack live on television. On the sixth floor, they stood at the huge library windows and saw people falling from the towers. Some teachers, remembering the 1993 attack on the WTC, pulled down blinds to prevent panic. Others attributed the booming noise heard during second period to a car accident and continued their lessons.

The attack could not be ignored for long. “Shortly after the second plane hit, Stuyvesant began to be an emergency center for police, secret service, and others,” said Eugene Blaufarb, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services. “After the collapse of the first tower, we were ordered to evacuate the building immediately.” The second tower collapsed as students were leaving through the north doors, but the school shielded everyone from the approaching cloud of smoke.

“Come on, Stuy[vesant], pretend you’re on the track team,” urged Renee Levine, a Stuyvesant teacher, as students and staff marched north along the Hudson River, distancing themselves from the school and trying to contact their parents. Many phone lines were busy or out-of-action The rare, working cell phone was passed around from friend to friend, costs forgotten. Relatives overseas were even more frantic than parents. “My grandma refused to eat until she knew that we were okay,” said Fang Yuan.

Stuyvesant students were among thousands of New Yorkers fleeing towards home. Some took ferries to relatives’ homes in New Jersey, while others walked across the Queensborough and Brooklyn Bridges. Manhattan residents invited classmates from other boroughs to spend the night with them.

After overcoming their initial fear and grief, Stuyvesant students joined the rescue and recovery effort in their own ways. Members of the school football teams along with coach Dave Velkas helped move supplies at Chelsea Piers. Others volunteered for the Red Cross. Andy Chang, Evelyn Chan, and Betty Luan decided to set up a memorial website for those who were in any way affected by Tuesday’s tragic events. The site will contain news, eyewitness accounts, and prayers, poems, and photographs. An email was circulated asking each student to contribute an item. On Sunday, almost 100 Stuyvesant students gathered in Washington Square Village to paint two huge 12 by 80 foot banners, each depicting a tree of life rising from the destroyed World Trade Center. Says Amreeta Mathai, “As students, we needed to do something to show our confidence in peace and in rebuilding the city. The school, which is only four blocks away from what used to be the WTC, is structurally sound, reported Donovan Moore, Parents’ Association Treasurer, who visited the school on Saturday, September 15. He posted his observations and photos of the building on Stuyvesant websites to ease students’ worries. “Right now, our high school is being used as a Medical and Supply depot,” said Jukay Hsu, president of the Stuyvesant Student Union. “There is no gas or electricity.” Since on September 20, students attend Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the other two specialized math and science schools in New York City. Though Brooklyn Tech students attend a morning session and Stuyvesant students an afternoon session, each day four periods overlap during which there are roughly 7,500 students in a building designed for 6,000.

“I worked in WTC 2 on the 47th floor all summer and now I just keep remembering all the little details about the building and people in it, like a really nice security guard who always waved to me and asked me how my day went. Now I don‘t even know if he is alive,” said Kate Chertova.

But hope mingles with the regrets. “I’m sure that everyone in New York City will work together to clean up and return lower Manhattan to its splendor. That’s what humanity does! I only wish I was there to help,” said Brad Badgley, a Stuyvesant history teacher who is teaching in China this year.

Perhaps a tree of life will indeed rise up from the mountain of rubble that distinguishes the Stuyvesant neighborhood from other places.


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