Attack: A View From Stuyvesant HS
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.
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.
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
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