They went to NYC to celebrate life. Instead, they were met with death
It was supposed to be a two-week reunion trip, a nostalgic 30th anniversary visit to New York City for 10 graduates of an Argentine high school.
The group, including classmate Martin Marro of Newton, arrived Tuesday, and immediately decided to travel around Manhattan on bikes.
“They had gone to celebrate life and instead they met with death,” said Jorge Cetta, secretary of institutional relations at Higher Polytechnic Institute in Rosario.
Five of the classmates were among the eight people killed Tuesday when a driver, whom the police identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, plowed a pickup truck into a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Eleven more were injured, including Marro, who was taken to Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. He is expected to recover, according to the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
His classmates who were killed were Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, and Hernán Ferruchi.
On Wednesday morning, their high school in Rosario lowered the Argentine flag to half-staff and decided to remain open so students could share their grief, Cetta said.
Marro, who is married and has two young children, was improving as he continued his recovery, said Tom Mountain, a friend and chairman of the Newton Republican City Committee. Mountain and Governor Charlie Baker attended a political fund-raiser at Marro’s home last week.
“He’s doing better,” Mountain said. “It’s horrible. It’s really a horror show. He’s one of the nicest, most congenial fellows you’d ever want to meet.”
Marro coaches Newton Youth Soccer. His children attend Mount Alvernia Academy, a private Catholic elementary school in Newton that has “a tight community,” Mountain said.
In a statement Wednesday, Baker said he was “heartbroken to learn of Martin’s injuries and the loss of his five friends.”
“Martin is a good man and comes from a wonderful family, and my prayers will be with him, his family, and their loved ones during this difficult time,” Baker said.
Marro is a scientist who works at Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company with offices and research labs in Cambridge. He researches therapies for life-threatening diseases, according to the company.
His wife, Mariana Dagatti, an architect, traveled to New York on Tuesday to be with her husband.
The family regularly goes to Cupola, an Italian restaurant in Newton. The owner, Carlos Trujillo said he sees them at least once a month.
“I couldn’t believe it was someone I knew,” Trujillo said when he learned his customer was among the injured. “I think it’s time for us to do something about the violence. It’s been long enough.”
Authorities said that Saipov pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State after the attack.
Aijaz Baloch, president of the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, condemned Saipov’s actions.
“We are outraged and dismayed by this attack and cowardly attempt to divide our nation with yet another act of terror,” Baloch said in a statement. “As Americans and Muslims, we offer our condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and pray for the swift recovery of those that were injured.”
In Rosario, which is 200 miles north of the capital Buenos Aires, school officials struggled to comprehend the scope of the tragedy. Two teachers at the school graduated with the men in 1987 and were so grief-stricken they stayed home to be with their families, Cetta said.
Marro and his friends were all planning on getting together again at the end of November in Rosario to celebrate their 30th reunion, Cetta said.
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 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.
Their generosity extended to each other, he said.
Some of the men who made the trip couldn’t afford the airline tickets, Cetta said. So Ariel 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.”
Officials at New York-Presbyterian Hospital declined to comment on Marro’s condition but said that 11 of the victims of the attack were initially sent to New York-Presbyterian in Lower Manhattan. As of Wednesday morning, two of those people had died, six were released, and three others were moved to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, hospital officials said.
In Newton, residents expressed shock that one of their own was injured in New York. Some also voiced fears that the public has become numb to so many terrorist attacks.
“This has to stop,” said Ariana Rezaei, 18. “We see all this violence, we look at it and then we turn it off.”