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"I Was So Scared": Stuyvesant High School Students on Lower Manhattan Terror Attack

Maria Milekhina

October 31st, 2017

At about 3 p.m on Tuesday, a rental Home Depot truck sped the wrong way down the bike path alongside the West Side Highway at Houston Street in Lower Manhattan, mowing down numerous pedestrians and cyclists for at least 20 blocks. The attacker then crashed into a school bus from Stuyvesant High School, and jumped out screaming Allahu Akbar (“God is great” in Arabic) holding what appeared to be firearms. NBC reports that the attacker was actually holding a pellet gun and a paint ball gun. The attacker was then shot by police and taken into custody.

 

Police identified the attacker as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year old man from Uzbekistan. According to the New York Times, investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to ISIS.

 

At least eight people were killed and eleven people were sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to authorities.

 

This attack was identified as an “act of terror” by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press conference following the incident.

 

Olivia Raykhman, a freshman at Stuyvesant High School witnessed the attack. "I was like right at the road, in front of the truck and school bus he hit," she said after the incident. After hearing and seeing the crash, she said that: "we went towards him [Mr. Saipov] because we thought he was hurt or like people needed help...And then we heard five gunshots and ran the other way...small children and teachers were running too."

 

“I was so scared, I like didn’t know what to do,” Ms. Raykhman recalled.

 

According to Karina Ionkina, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, school officials locked the school down, not allowing anyone to exit or enter.

 

Venus Chidinma, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, recalled what it was like during the lockdown: “I was thinking about how, if we hadn't just happened to not have had official practice that day, my teammates would have been running on the very bike path and in that same spot that the truck ran over all those bikers on.”

 

“I'm appalled at how close this attack was to my close friends, my peers, and myself...” Ms. Ionkina said. “The recent terrorist attacks all over the world always shocked me, but their distance from me, along with their degree of inhumanity made them seem surreal and alien. The fact that this happened in front of my school makes it incredibly real. There were dead bodies blocks away from the doors I enter and leave on a daily basis. I'm just trying to understand how the world has come to this.”

 

Ms. Ionkina made the connection between the attacker’s ethnic background and the strong Islamophobic, anti-immigrant sentiment of President Donald Trump and of people across America. “After the controversy over the travel ban, I'm also concerned about the anti-Muslim sentiment that this might give rise to because the attacker screamed ‘Allahu Akhbar,’” she said in an interview. “I hope that as a society we can remain conscious and level headed through atrocities like this one.”

 

Last edited at 10:15 pm, Tuesday October 31st