Adriana Alvarez
Pace Student

Fania Lev

 

Fania: A Pace University alumni, and her personal 9/11 experience and aftermath. I would like to thank you Adriana, very much in coming today and giving me this opportunity to get to know you better and to know your experience.

Adriana: Youíre welcome.

Fania: Adriana, where do you currently live, right now?

Adriana: I currently live in Astoria, Queens, New York.

Fania: And what was your major when you did attend Pace University?

Adriana: My major was marketing, specializing in advertising and promotions.

Fania: Did you start, uh Pace University in the year 2001?

Adriana: No, I started in the year 2000 and I finished in 2004.

Fania: Great! And um, did you receive your, your Bachelorís?

Adriana: Yes, I finished.

Fania: In business?

Adriana: Uh-huh.

Fania: Great! And are you currently utilizing that degree right now?

Adriana: Um, yes, and Iíve been using it in many different ways.

Fania:  Do you know that Pace University uh, turned 100 years old this year? Itís the centen, centennial year.

Adriana: Yes, I just heard and I am very proud of being part of such a great university.

Fania:  Uh, we are actually uh, interviewing uh, and I would like to also um, utilize your information and the centennial year, uh, combine it together because itís very important that Pace University turned 100 years old and um, and with that it has so many students and uh, alumni members that feel that Pace University is not only a University to them but a home as well.

Adriana: Uh-huh.

Fania: Adriana, how do you feel towards Pace University?

Adriana: Well um, I feel that, I feel very strongly about my entire experience um, going to the university, attending the university for four years, given the fact I am from another country all by myself.  I didnít know anybody here. So all the students and faculty members became my day-to-day life, everything that I knew. I was welcomed very well. Um, I was dorming at the beginning, so the whole experience. It, it really was my home so I, I just have nothing to say but positive things about everybody.

Fania: What about the faculty?

Adriana: Uh, faculty members were great. I definitely think I experienced being taught by one of, some of the best professors out there. Um, they really connected with me and I, I guess tried to do their best in teaching me and making me understand everything I could and being there for me when I needed them the most.

Fania: Where did you live in the year 2001? Where were you?

Adriana: Well, I was um, currently on that day I was living in Maria's Towers on the 17th floor. Um, so when the first plane hit the first tower, I was sleeping at the moment and my bed shook and everything. And when, everybody just started screaming in my floor running around and that made me actually get up from my bed and go out to the hallway. And right next, two doors down from mine are the windows that face directly to the World Trade Center, so everybody was just in the windows screaming and crying.  I ran over there and asked what was going on and thatís when everybody let me know that a plane had just crashed in the World Trade Center. Um, because like maybe a couple minutes after that, thatís when the second one hit. I was, I went back in my bedroom, calling my mother at home, to tell her that everything was fine, to turn on the TV. And thatís when I started feeling like the floors shaking again. I dropped the phone, ran back to the windows and thatís exactly when the second one hit. So we saw everything very clearly from our window. Um, from there we had no idea what was going on, we all just thought it was maybe um, like army jets when theyíre practicing following each other or one engines, we had no idea. And people just kept coming, other students, kept coming out of their bedrooms, um, you know itís basically yelling the news that it was an apparently, an, a terrorist attack and letting us know what was going, that the Pentagon just got hit, and etcetera, etcetera.

Um, I think nobody really had any idea of the intensity of what was going on. People were still stopping and having to go to classes. They were like, "All right I have to go to class, Iím going to be late, so let me know what happens.Ē So nobody had any idea what was really going on. After that they evacuated us from the dorms and we went to the basement and thatís when, actually Iím sorry, we saw from our window the first tower collapsed. It really looked just like a monsoon. It just looked like a wave of dust just swallowing people and um, you could clearly, clearly see from our window inside the floors, burning, people jumping, holding hands, um, you could see everything. Everything. So it was really overwhelming the feeling of seeing people running for their lives and not being able to do anything, but just glued to a window screaming you know, run, run, run, please God don't let them die. Um, from there when we were in the basement, um, we were literally everybody in the university was just crammed in the, in the little gym looking at one TV seeing the second tower collapse. We didnít feel anything, nothing shook, nothing. We just saw it on TV.  And from there maybe--a couple of hours later--we went, went back up on our dorm rooms, we were back around. The school was full of policemen, firemen, people running in from the streets full of blood, and dust everywhere. Um, we were just trying to give to everybody all the waters that were in the stores, you know in the little cafeteria. Every vending machine in the school was broken. Um, and just people coming in and trying to make groups in order to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. When we were back upstairs in the dorm rooms, thatís when the seven collapsed and thatís when we had no electricity, no cell phone service, no phone service, nothing. We were completely in dark. Um, with little candles and flashlights, everything we could find for maybe more than-- till the next day. Next morning thatís when lights came back on, and they tried to evacuate us that had nowheres to really go. From there it was just Pace really took care of us and um, put us in a bus going back to the other campus in Westchester. Um, it was actually a bunch of us that had nobody in New York City, no family or friends. Or were really too scared to actually go outside and cross the Brooklyn Bridge, to be stranded somewheres else you know, instead of just staying in Pace where we could all be together and know that we werenít alone.

Fania: Adriana, sorry to interrupt you but uh, what was going through your mind back then?

Adriana: Well, itís, itís really kind of hard to explain, because thinking back to when everything was going on, as I said before, not even myself, or I don't think anybody around me got the intensity of what was really going on. We couldn't, we didnít watch the news or listen to them on the radio or anything for at least 24 hours after, so a lot of people were just talking how they wanted to go into the parts of Manhattan that were actually people being able to move around and everything was open to go to bars and go drinking. Nobody was really getting the intensity and how really it was going to affect us so badly in the future, you know? I, I went out right before the seven collapsed and I kept walking up to around J&R, basically around getting to J&R and it was just such a dark cloud that there was no way I could keep walking and the street was just full of shoes and notebooks and every single file and document from the World Trade Center that you can imagine, checks, license, everything just copied. Little things from female, like from women's hair, clothes, like shirts, everything on the floor, so you know, thereís really that I guess when you start grasping you know, itís where people really down here, running for their lives, you know. It was chaos. And what, I guess, what really worried me more about being more in the city before I was taken to Westchester, was that I was so afraid that City Hall was going to be bombed or something like that and thatís when it was really going to affect us, because it was going to be right across the street. So, but yeah, um.

Fania: Did you cover your mouth, did you because you were breathing all the debris?

Adriana: Yes, um, everybody at Pace was given a doctor's mask, a nurse mask so even inside the school a lot of people were wearing it. Um, especially at the entrance because of the, the entrance of the school smelled a lot like you know smoke and debris and a lot of people were coming in completely covered with it so.  If you were in certain areas, people were still using it so.

Fania:  So you find it too, that Pace University was very helpful?

Adriana: Definitely, um, I think more than us, they were incredibly helpful to the police and the firefighters, and the people that were actually coming in for help from Pace University and the students. I think that was such a great um, inspiration, something that was really moving to see um, people coming in and just sitting with us in our cafeterias and the Student Union that had nothing to do with Pace, just looking for you know somewhere safe to be. And um, since we gave, we basically, Pace gave all our food and drinks, everything for everybody, so by the end of the day us that were in the dorms were pretty lucky if we had something in our fridge, but besides that there was nothing else in the, in this university to be able to stay here.  So thatís when we went away and definitely they provided everything, you know shelter.  They provided us with food and money.  They gave us money to go shopping for those of us who did not have clothes or didnít pack enough. They provided um, psychological help. They had psychologists and therapists come and talk with us. They made us um, unite in groups and really talk about our experience with everybody, because some of the people that were with us actually went outside and were part of the whole thing. Um, and knew people that might have been stuck in the Towers, you know. So it was definitely a lot of support throughout everybody. The students really I guess got together and tried to help each other as much as we could.

Fania: Did you get any counseling?

Adriana: Uh, yes, when we were up there we did get counseling and um, basically just share our stories with everybody.  Um, since I wasnít really outside, like I wasnít I guess as much part of it as other people were.  But I had a pretty good view, more than others in the dorms since my room was right there in the window and it had the best view in the whole, the highest view from the entire dorms so.  So I, yeah I had counseling for maybe three weeks.

Fania: Do you have any nightmares at night?  How did you sleep the other nights?

Adriana: It was okay because we were upstate so everything was pretty quiet and peaceful. I guess that really helped a lot, getting out of the commotion and the city because when everything kind of calmed down, it just literally it looked like a closed city. You looked outside and it like just the biggest snowstorm had just happened, everything was just covered with ashes. You couldn't see the street; nothing. And there wasnít a soul in miles and miles around. So it was just so eerie and weird. And you still have like the cars were all around Pace that were crushed and, and everything because Pace, last of what I understand, was used for a lot of um, storage, bodies, and cars, and everything, a lot of debris until we came back to the, to the dorms. So being over there helped with being peaceful and kind of getting it out of our minds you know, not being right then and there. But in the future in the long run, it definitely affected like any little noise and you know how it is in New York City you know. Thereís noises every single second, a truck walking by, or an every little noise not only myself but my roommates and my friends will catch ourselves jumping off our beds, um, crawling under our desks for no apparent reason, for any little noise, because it was still that sensitive area.

Fania: Youíre still affected by it. Um, Adriana, I could just imagine what youíve been through, your mother, your parents were back home. And youíre here all alone with your friends, and, and the support youíre getting from Pace University. So I could just imagine how hard it was for you. Um, how did your lifestyle change?

Adriana: Well, in, for a while, I would say months, maybe three months tops, everything kind of did change, not only my lifestyle but I guess everybodyís around me and in New York City in general. Everybody was so much closer, everybody was helping each other, just smiling a little bit more in a way trying to connect with everybody. Um, it definitely I guess there was a lot more trips to the hospital with nose bleeds and not only mine but other people I knew because there was so much debris around and even in the building. It was just such a warning stage, you walked being scared of the next step you were going to take and if anything was going to happen, you know?

Fania: Can you share with us, um, when you did go to the hospital?

Adriana: Um, yeah it was, according to the doctors, it was just very common, everybody was having them. Um, it was just too much dirt and debris that we were breathing. Like, I would sit down in the street and you would just look up and there was just so much debris and dust, and little particles falling in the sky every single minute of the day for months and months, until even after it stopped burning. After they knocked it down, you could still see some particles coming from, you know floating in the air. So I know, I am going to probably see effects of that still to come in the future. You know, there has to be a way that, thatís still going to affect.

Fania: Did you go to the hospital more than once?

Adriana: Uh, yes, I went to the hospital twice and um, my roommate I think went maybe three, with severe nosebleeds.

Fania: I could just imagine how hard this was and still is.

Adriana: Yeah.

Fania: How did it change the person you are today?

Adriana: I guess then in the larger scope, itís like once you live such a big tragedy other little things don't seem to matter as much or don't seem like such a big deal. And now that so many other tragedies are happening all around the world with the tsunami and you know the war and everything. You see the effects and you kind of tend to relate and you, I guess Iíve seen part of, of the real world or how, as I said tragedies can be and I know a lot of people were sympathize what was going on in the city but there was no way of knowing unless you were here. And sometimes now I see whatís going on in the tsunami and whatís going on over there and nobody has any idea how, you know how theyíre still living whatís going on. So, I canít even imagine how hard it must be. And it made me grow in every way possible.

Fania: Adriana, how long did you live in the Westchester dormitory?

Adriana: Um, we lived there for two weeks, close to three, I believe. And then we came back to the city when there was access for people to kind of move around and we had electricity back in the building and everything.  And we were still maybe another two weeks with no phones. Just we were in the dorms and we had no phone, for more than like a month after that, so, so it was still kind of shaky, you know?

Fania: What the faculty members? Did um, did they teach you anything, did they uh, I mean, how were their reaction in going back to work again?

Adriana: To tell you the truth, I think the faculty was more affected than the students. I think cause a lot of them, knew people that lived there, um, most of them lived outside the city and I donít know I guess they have more of a grasp of reality than us students, then with younger mentalities, you know? And I think they were a lot more shaken about the whole thing. And um, they were very understanding with people that had members and friends in the Towers and couldnít attend class or that were still you know, kind of shaken about things so I guess they were kind of laid back towards the grades and kind of how tough they could have been on us for a little bit you know so until everything kind of got back to normal.

Fania: When you were residing in uh, in the Pace, in the dormitory in the city, when you were passing next to Battery Park City letís say, um, through the blocks next to the World Trade Center uh, how did it make you feel?

Adriana: I was definitely, tell you the truth the way I cope with it was basically walking by it as fast as I could, because the least I would stop to think about it the less, the least real it was to me. So, yes I did go around there, I took pictures, I, I went for every time they were going to knock the walls down. And it was basically like going to a funeral each day. Because everybody was just crying for their parents or their wives or their husbands or their kids and basically I was there for many funerals, in other words.  Thatís the way I can see it. Um, and thereís those days, those weeks, those months walking around so many pictures of people missing, people missing, and people missing, and everyday I guess there were less and less pictures. People that just werenít being found, and it was just, so, such a sad moment, I guess.

Fania: Did you, when, were your classmates, um, were their religion um, Muslim or whenever you did see someone wearing a Punjab, how did that make you feel? Were you terrified?

Adriana: Um, not really. I didn't, I never really generalized them as one because that is not, I guess that is just a group of people that decide to take the religion to that way and trans, you know, do wrong with it. But a lot of people react in other ways.  Like the day of 9/11, a lot of Muslim students and Arabs, Arabics had to run out from school because there was a lot of students that were running, you know, behind them, trying to attack them. Um, I had a student in my dorm on my floor, he moved out for like a month. He didnít go back to school because he was scared of how people were going to react towards him.  And even for years, for maybe the school year after that, or even more, if there was any speech or any subject that was around religion or Allah, people were attacking Muslims and attacking their religion and their beliefs and throwing it back towards 9/11 and you know, and I guess they didnít have anything directly to do with it. So I imagine it was hard for them.

Fania: September 11th will always be a tragedy, um, will always be history for us. How do you feel today? I am looking at you right now I see um, you have watery eyes, I see that youíre still affected by it. Um, so I really do know, I could just imagine how youíre feeling now, but as a changed person as time passed by, what are your emotions today? What, what are you thinking right now?

Adriana: Um, well definitely itís not something I think about everyday or even every month. But when moments come around, especially for me when Iím back in the downtown area, sometimes and you see the movies on TV, or any little special about it, it definitely kind of hits strong because it brings back picture memories, you know? Remembering, I love the area, I loved the World Trade Center knowing that itís gone, that itís you know, how many people passed through it.  When I took the train and got out in that new area, I couldnít, I had to run out because I just felt weird and you know and scared in a way not, I don't know and itís just...

Fania: It is the year 2006 now and youíre utilizing Pace Universityís degree, and you are, are you thankful to Pace?

Adriana: Yes Iím, Iím definitely glad that I chose Pace as my choice to get my degree at. I definitely had different choices and obviously the fact that Pace was located in New York City helped a lot but I don't regret a day that I attended. I am glad that and proud to say Iím a Pace University alumni. And the fact that they had their support and um, the helpfulness and everything throughout such a tragedy, and after um, definitely is something to be thankful.

Fania: Adriana, what, in the future, what are you going to be telling your children about youíre experience and the aftermath of September 11th?

Adriana: Well thinking about that is definitely something um, that wonít come for a while but itís, itís overwhelming thinking that I was part of history.  In a way, I lived history more you know, to say that way. But Iíll definitely say a lot of details I told you today. But I will pray everyday from now on that it wonít happen again and my kids and my grandkids wonít have to live through it or anybody else.

Fania: Adriana, itís been a pleasure interviewing you and knowing all the facts that you have experienced, in such a tragedy as that. I would like to thank you for coming and meeting with me today. And I wish you success in your endeavors and I really appreciate you having the time.

 

 


Pace 9-11 Oral History Project


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