Metro

‘They had gone to celebrate life and instead they met with death’

From left to right: Hernan Ferrucci, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, Ivan Brajkovic, Juan Trevisan, Hernan Mendoza, Diego Angelini, and Ariel Benvenuto at Islas Malvinas international airport in Rosario, Argentina, gathered moments before traveling to New York. The friends were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation with a trip to New York City.
Trevisan family via Associated Press
From left to right: Hernan Ferrucci, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, Ivan Brajkovic, Juan Trevisan, Hernan Mendoza, Diego Angelini, and Ariel Benvenuto at Islas Malvinas international airport in Rosario, Argentina, gathered moments before traveling to New York. The friends were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation with a trip to New York City.

It was supposed to be a two-week trip celebrating their high school days.

Nine graduates of the class of 1987 class of Higher Polytechnic Institute in Rosario, a port city north of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, boarded a plane last weekend to the United States.

The plan was to meet with their fellow graduate, Martin Marro, who was raised in Argentina but had moved years ago to Newton, then travel down to New York.

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They arrived in New York Tuesday, said Jorge Cetta, secretary of institutional relations at Higher Polytechnic Institute in Rosario. And they immediately decided to travel around the city on bikes.

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“They had gone to celebrate life and instead they met with death,” Cetta said.

A driver, identified by police as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, plowed a pickup truck into a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday. Eight people were killed and 12 injured. Among the injured was Marro, who was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where doctors said he was expected to recover, according to the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Among the dead were five of Marro’s former schoolmates: Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, and Hernán Ferruchi.

On Wednesday morning, the school lowered its flag to half-staff and decided to open its doors, Cetta said in a telephone interview. Officials decided it would be best for the students to gather together to share their grief. Two teachers at the school graduated with Marro and his friends. They went home to be with their families, Cetta said.

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“It’s terrible. It’s so terrible,” Cetta said in Spanish. “We’re a school like any other school in the world that opens its doors in the morning and closes them at night. Today, this routine was broken by this tragedy.”

Marro was part of a close-knit group of students who never stopped supporting their high school, Cetta said.

In 2006, Marro and the five men who died Tuesday pooled their money together to pay for the renovation of the high school’s third floor, Cetta said.

“These boys had huge hearts, with so much love for this school,” Cetta said.

They were all planning on getting together again at the end of November in Rosario for a party that would celebrate their 30th anniversary of graduating.

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Their generosity extended to each other.

Some of the men who made the trip couldn’t afford the airline tickets, Cetta said. So Erlij paid for them to go, he said.

“You never really leave this school,” Cetta said. “Everyone who came here feels a special sense of belonging that never goes away.”

From left to right: Hernan Ferrucci, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Mendoza and Diego Angelini at Islas Malvinas. The five men, part of a group of eight, were killed in an attack near the World Trade Center while visiting New York on the 30th anniversary of their graduation.
CECILIA PIEDRABUENA/AFP/Getty Images
From left to right: Hernan Ferrucci, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Mendoza and Diego Angelini at Islas Malvinas. The five men, part of a group of eight, were killed in an attack near the World Trade Center while visiting New York on the 30th anniversary of their graduation.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer.