KUNM

5 Argentines Killed In NYC Terrorist Attack

Nov 1, 2017
Originally published on November 2, 2017 10:43 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Argentina is mourning five men killed in yesterday's terror attack in Manhattan. Those men were part of a tight-knit group of friends. They were celebrating their 30-year high school reunion with a special trip to New York. NPR's Philip Reeves is in their hometown of Rosario. He has been speaking with people who knew them. Hey, Phil.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: Tell us a little bit more about these five men.

REEVES: Well, these were old school buddies. Three were architects. Two were engineers, including one who's a successful businessman here. They knew each other most of their lives. They did a lot of stuff together. We understand that they, you know, where in the same sports club. They had regular barbecues. They played volleyball. You perhaps get an inkling of their relationship from a photo that's appeared of them at the airport before they headed out on their trip to New York. And you can see them smiling, their arms linked. And they're all wearing these white T-shirts with the word free on it. So this was a group of men who were, it seems, close friends going on vacation.

KELLY: It breaks your heart to hear that. I know you have been out and about all day today meeting people who knew them, getting a sense of what their place in the community was. So let me just hand it over to you for a minute, and you can share some of those voices with us.

REEVES: Well, before saying that, I'll actually tell you that Rosario's a big port city. So a couple of million people live here. It's the third-largest city in the country, and it's no stranger to violence. There's a big problem here with drug gangs. So you know, a lot of people do not know them. But despite its size, these five men are certainly remembered here with deep sadness by some, especially at their old school - at their old high school.

These men were part of a group that went to New York, as you said, to celebrate graduating from the school. It's a place called Instituto Politecnico Superior San Martin. And I was there at the school today, and I spoke to the school's vice principal, Alicia Oliva.

ALICIA OLIVA: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: She says the whole community is shocked and shaken up. And it really was obviously completely unexpected and without precedence in the 111-year history of the school. Now, there are about 1,300 students at the school, and one of them's the 14-year-old daughter of one of the men who was killed. So you know, it's a really terrible incident for them in so many ways. And the vice principal, Oliva, said that the students took part in a ceremony this morning to commemorate the dead men.

OLIVA: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: She said that students are completely stunned, you know? "We always see these types of attacks as something that happened really far away from us, and it doesn't impact us directly," she says. "And now it's come to our community."

I also spoke with someone who used to teach the five men, Viviana Bignaduzza, who taught the five in a mechanics class back in the 1980s and remembers the group very well.

VIVIANA BIGNADUZZA: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: And she says, you know, "they were always in touch with each other. They knew about each other's success, each other's sadnesses. And they were always very kind to each other." So you know, you can see that this appears to be a very close-knit group. And it maintained, by the way, links with the school. One of them - the successful businessman - has kids from the school go to his company for work placement, for work experience.

KELLY: And Phil, as you were out talking to people, did you manage to find out how this idea of a trip to New York came about?

REEVES: Yeah. It's reported in the media here that they came up with the idea at one of their barbecues and that 1 of the 5, the wealthy businessman who's a guy called Ariel Erlij, helped fund it. It appears they chose New York because one of their old school friends from the same year of '87 is a scientist living near Boston, and they wanted to get together with him in the U.S. And that friend was also a victim of yesterday's attack...

KELLY: Yeah.

REEVES: ...But survived and is in hospital.

KELLY: NPR's Philip Reeves with a sad story there from Rosario, Argentina. Phil, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.