From the archives: West High relations to the east

Originally published Sept. 24, 2001


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With several connections to terror sites in the East, emotional distance between the East Coast residents and the West High students and faculty narrows.


Many victims and rescue workers relating to the terrorist attacks in Washington D.C.. New York City and Pennsylvania hold a personal connection to West High students.

“My cousin, Steven Scotto, is a firelighter for the Brooklyn fire department, and lately he’s been working a 24-hour shift,” said Kris Harms ’04. “He goes down everyday and helps with the uncovering of the rubble.”

Kelly Mellecker ’02, also has relatives in the New York City area employed by the city, although he is currently working away from the rescuing efforts.

“My mom’s cousin is a police officer in upper Manhattan, and right now he’s looking into the tons of other bomb threats that New York has had lately,” she said.

According to, statistics show that firefighters account for approximately 18 of the 190 confirmed dead in the World Trade Center attacks. However, Harms shows optimism in the safety and well being of Scotto.

“At first, I was kind of scared because we did not hear from him, but now, I’m actually really proud that someone of my family is out there helping and hopefully making this situation a little bit better.” she said.

While family members in Iowa may fear for the safety of their loved ones in the attacked zones (although they are currently safe), Ipar Demir ‘02, has been one West student who was closely impacted by the terrorist attacks.

In July, Demir and her family moved to Iowa City from the Brooklyn area in New York City, approximately 15 minutes away from the World Trade Center. Since it was a monument that she had known well and had grown up with, Demir was shocked at the demolition of the twin towers that occurred on Sept. 11.

“I couldn’t believe it… It was unreal,” she said.

Demir’s mind immediately went to her friends and loved ones who still resided in New York.

“I was so worried for the people that went to my old school,” said Demir. “I knew so many people there.”

While most of Demir’s closest friends were safe, her friends themselves did not enjoy such luck.

“My boyfriend’s neighbor died.” said Demir. “Also, a few of my friends’ parents died… They were employees at the World Trade Center when the bombing occurred. But all of my closest friends were safe.”

Demir’s old school is located on the one side of the Brooklyn Bridge, while the other end leads into lower Manhattan.

“It was very, very, very hard to get ahold of New York because it was so chaotic,” Demir said. “As I kept calling [to see if friends were all right], I remembered more people that I knew and all of these ‘what if’ thoughts kept running through my head… What if my friends were around when they attacked, stuff like that…but luckily, no one very close to me was injured.”

The West students interviewed also had civilian relatives in New York: some who were far away from the attack and some who were eyewitnesses to the attack.

“My brother goes to school in upper New York State, but that day, he was visiting his roommate in upper New York City.” said Emma Gelman ’02. “I didn’t even think that he was in New York City at the time, so I wasn’t really worried… We were able to contact him and he’s totally fine.”

However, Harms’ aunt viewed the attack live and up close.

“My aunt was actually working next to the World Trade Center when the attack happened,” she said. “She came home all covered in dust and she just couldn’t bear to look at it…she kept seeing all of these people falling and she had to turn around, it was too much to bear.”