Sunday, June 26, 2005

Stuyvesant class of '05: Survivors, shoppers

A NYT article deals with the normal and exceptional experiences of the Stuyvesant class of '05, the kids who were freshman on 9/11. One student "walked to Union Square with a friend, and remembers being annoyed that Urban Outfitters was closed." That sounds terrible, until you remember how unnerving that day was, how inconceivable what had happened was at the time. Still, it's a bit jarring to hear a girl from Stuyvesant admit to shopping for trendy clothes.

There are some details in the Times piece that might only make sense to those who attended the high school: "Chun Che Peng remembers a teacher telling students to focus on their work, but no one could." At most other high schools, that could describe any day, but at Stuyvesant, students often do focus on their work. And "counselors gently discussed post-traumatic stress, though few students accepted their offers to talk privately." That sounds about right--even a massive terrorist attack wouldn't drive Stuy kids to their guidance counselors, especially given how frequently teachers there get taken out in handcuffs for alleged sexual misconduct.

As a member of the class of '01, the last class to graduate while the Twin Towers were still standing, I've always felt odd about how familiar people are with the high school for such upsetting reasons. I'm always asked if I was there when it happened, since I seem about the right age, but I think back to my yearbook, which has what must be some of the last photos taken of the WTC used not for political purposes or just generally to commemorate 9/11 but just as backdrop, because that was for us what a local parking lot or strip mall might be to students at any other high school. (I got black stretchy pants on sale at the Express in the WTC, how's that for profound?) But when the planes hit, and even for a bit afterwards, my main concern was for the high school, for those inside. At the time, I had no idea who would be killed where, and there were all sorts of rumors about the high school being in danger, though in retrospect my concern seems entirely misplaced and ridiculous.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would have been strange if you HADN'T worried most about Stuyvesant on 9/11, not ridiculous that you did.

But why is it "a bit jarring to hear a girl from Stuyvesant admit to shopping for trendy clothes"? Is it the whiff of normality? What about your expose of Chicago undergrads sneaking off to the GAP?

Phoebe said...

Chicago is a private college with no particular emphasis on math and science, with students who, often enough, look like they buy new clothes. Stuyvesant is a public high school for math, science, and technology, with a student body whose male component (most students are boys) tends to wear the absolute same thing every day, and whose female component only seems fashion-conscious compared to the boys, but not by anyother standard.

Petey said...

"At the time, I had no idea who would be killed where, and there were all sorts of rumors about the high school being in danger, though in retrospect my concern seems entirely misplaced and ridiculous."

Not so ridiculous. The evildoers had been hoping to tip over the towers and cause devastation throughout lower Manhattan.