Harblin was standing across the street in front of the Millennium Hotel when he heard someone say a plane had hit the tower, and it never occurred to him that the crash wasn’t accidental. “Then I saw someone fall from the tower,” he says. “Everyone screamed and gasped and people started to cry. It was so sad to know that people were dying such horrible deaths at that very moment.”
      Still not understanding the full magnitude of the unfolding tragedy, Harblin tried to run around the trade center to get to his office building, but a policeman stopped him and told him to head north. He’d only walked a block when a massive ball of flame burst out of Tower II. “A second later, I could see a cloud of debris coming toward me,” Harblin says. “I ran around a corner and ducked into a service entrance with about 20 other people.” When the smoke and dust started to clear, Harblin pulled his shirt up over his mouth and began the long walk home, where his wife and daughter awaited him.
      Three days later, Lilly celebrated her second birthday with her parents and grandparents. Reflecting on what might have been, her grandfather, Tom Harblin, says: “Lilly’s special gift was that her father was there to help her celebrate.”

—Christine Yackel

 

Eyewitnesses to History


Ada Rosario Dolch

ON SEPTEMBER 11 THE
students at the High School for Leadership and Public Service in New York City became eyewitnesses to history. After the first hijacked 767 slammed into the World Trade Center, they were evacuated from their building at 90 Trinity Place to the relative safety of Battery Park. But when Tower II collapsed before their eyes, they scattered in all directions to escape the oncoming fireball of soot and debris.
      The students were led to safety by their principal, Ada Rosario Dolch, who lost her sister, an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald, in the attack. “Ada knew this even as she worked to keep order and get the children out of the school as quickly as possible,” says Jane Werner Present ’56, chair of the Friends of the High School for Leadership and Public Service. “After the first tower collapsed and the students ran for their lives, Ada told them, ‘Take care of each other—you know how to do that—you’re leaders.’”
 

    After the towers collapsed, 200 of the 600 students took the ferry to Staten Island and spent the night at a local high school. Twenty more went by ferry to New Jersey, where they were housed in a local church and aided by its parishioners. The rest walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and north to upper Manhattan. “Thank God they are all alive and safe,” Present says.
      The High School for Leadership and Public Service (HSLAPS) was established in 1993 in collaboration with the Maxwell School to develop urban leaders specially trained in democratic principles. Today, the 14-story HSLAPS building is located at what has become known as ground zero. Although the building came through the disaster with only a few broken windows, the students can’t return yet because the U.S. Marshals Service is using it as a base for recovery efforts. “For now, the school has been relocated to the Fashion Industries High School,” Present says. “Syracuse University rallied to our cause and rushed notebooks and supplies to the students in their temporary housing.”
      Help also came in the form of moral support from former President Bill Clinton, who met with the HSLAPS students on September 24. He gave them a brief civics lesson on world events and tried to explain to them why the terrorists had attacked. “President Clinton told the students that the only way the terrorists can defeat us is if we let them,” Present says. “Our students were enormously inspired and buoyed by his visit.”
      According to Principal Dolch, the students are “holding up” as well as can be expected. “Inner-city kids are a bit on the tough side, so we won’t see the effects of this horrible tragedy for some time,” Present says. “Our faculty and mentors are working together to help them cope.”

—Christine Yackel


A Life-Saving Move

ROB ROSS ’93 IS AFRAID OF HEIGHTS. BUT AS A
senior performance analyst at a major financial institution in lower Manhattan, he overcame his fear daily to work on the 70th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower II. “The tower creaked and shifted,” Ross says. “I was glad when I moved to an inner office. That move may have saved my life.”
      On September 11 Ross arrived at work early to run some financial reports. “I remember remarking to myself what a beautiful day it was—clear as a bell,” he says. Just before 8:45 a.m. he was talking on the telephone to a financial advisor in Michigan, when he was startled by a burst of white light followed by streams of people running from the building’s outer offices to the inner offices. “My boss, who had survived the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, yelled, ‘Get your stuff and get out of here because you’re not coming back,’” Ross says. “At this point we thought a small plane had crashed into the other tower, and I have to admit I was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. The building still had power and there wasn’t any smoke. All we saw were pieces of burning paper drifting by the windows.”

 


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Main Home Page Contents Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks
Reflections In Memoriam Time of Terror Lessons of Hope
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