“It felt like a movie.”
Two students from New York City, Madeleine Elfenbein ’04 and Luke Stein ’02, described their dazed reactions to yesterday’s tragedy the same way. Katy Brodsky ’02 was shocked into a similar sense of unreality. “I’ve always considered New York to be untouchable,” she said.
All three students, whose families are safe, watched and listened to the attacks on the World Trade Center in stunned disbelief yesterday morning. Elfenbein, a Kirkland House resident, thought it was an accident at first. “I thought, ‘how unusual, for a plane to crash into the World Trade Center,'” she said.
The students spent frantic hours trying to reach their families, who all live far north of the disaster area. “It was especially frustrating that it was so hard to get in touch with people from New York,” said Stein, recalling how no phone calls went in or out of the city for hours. He finally reached his family in the early afternoon; Elfenbein had better luck earlier in the day via e-mail, and Brodsky made contact with her family shortly after noon.
The students relayed eyewitness accounts of the tragedy and its aftermath: Elfenbein’s mother watched a plane hit one of the towers from a friend’s apartment on 90th street. Stein’s brother described Central Park as looking “like a volcano.” His father, a banker, put up several of his colleagues unable to commute off Manhattan last night.
The students feel the urge to return to their families, although none anticipates rushing home soon. “I wish I could go back and be with my family and share this experience with my community, because that’s what I hear, New York’s become a community,” said Elfenbein.
That sense of community has come to Cambridge as well, said Stein. “It’s been really amazing how much the Harvard community has come together to support us, particularly people from New York,” said the Adams House resident. “You do see the support come out of the woodwork,” said Brodsky. “The students have been very concerned and loving.”
In spite of seeking – and finding – comfort from her friends at Harvard and from New York, Elfenbein said, “It hasn’t struck home. I haven’t been able to process it emotionally yet.”