5 Argentines Among Those Killed In New York City Attack

Nov 2, 2017
Originally published on November 2, 2017 12:37 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Eight people died in that terror attack along a bike path in New York City on Tuesday. Five of the 8 victims were from Argentina. They were friends in the United States celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. NPR's Philip Reeves went to their old school in Argentina where they are being remembered.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Thirty years ago, the five Argentines walked these corridors together. Here they forged lifelong friendships. Here they took their first steps along a path that made them architects and engineers and, in one case, a successful businessman.

This is the Instituto Politecnico in the city of Rosario. It's a big austere building scuffed up by generations. Everyone here calls it the poly. Out in the school yard, students throw hoops. It looks like a normal day. But it's not, says vice principal Alicia Oliva.

ALICIA OLIVA: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: "The students are pretty stunned by what's happened," she says. So, too, are the several hundred people who later gather outside the school for a candlelight vigil to remember the five men. Former students from the same year of '87 console each other. They talk quietly in groups, hug and sometimes weep.

Marcelo Garcia Canales was a student here and also, by the mid-'80s, a teacher.

MARCELO GARCIA CANALES: (Through interpreter) I think we graduates of this institution are all alike in some way. We have a very great sense of belonging.

REEVES: It's that kind of high school, says Canales.

CANALES: (Through interpreter) We know each other very well. And we get to love each other despite our differences.

REEVES: Rosario is Argentina's third largest city. It's a major port. And it's used to being in the headlines. The superstar soccer player Lionel Messi was born here as was Che Guevara. Drug gangs are active, which means homicides are common. Yet the sudden attack in New York has shaken people here. Some of those at this vigil didn't personally know the five who died but wanted to be here because, says Mirta Albert...

MIRTA ALBERT: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: We've lost five good people from this town. All five men who died reportedly had wives and children.

MARIA JULIA: It's a great way to support the families because if I'm sad, I can think of the families of the ones who are dead how sad they can be. No, it's awful.

REEVES: Maria Julia did know some of those directly involved in this tragedy. She's 20 and a student. One of her closest family members, a cousin whom she calls an uncle, was in the group of 10 friends caught in the New York attack.

JULIA: Actually, I WhatsApp-ed him yesterday. But he was like really shocked. So he didn't answer. But my aunt had spoken to him. He called. And it was like a shock because some minutes earlier, he sent us a photo riding a bike. So it was awful.

REEVES: How's the rest of the family?

JULIA: We are, like, shocked all of us. It's hard.

REEVES: Julia says her relatives survived.

JULIA: We are very lucky because he doesn't have any injury or something. So it's right for me. But on the other hand, we know the people who are dead now. We have some friends whose father is dead. So I'm really sad.

REEVES: That sadness is widely felt here. So is bewilderment that five men on an old-buddies vacation could so suddenly be taken away. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rosario.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILLY GONZALES' "SWEET BURDEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.