9/11 Stuyvesant Alumni 20 Years Later

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Issue 1, Volume 112

By Morris Raskin, Karen Zhang 

Cover Image

Thousands of Stuyvesant students, teachers, and faculty members looked on as the attacks on September 11, 2001, took place just blocks away from Stuyvesant High School. While the attacks have affected every student differently, the impact has stuck with each one. The Spectator spoke to a few Stuyvesant alumni there at the time of the attacks about their reflections of the event 20 years later.

Ilya Feldsherov (’02)

Ilya Feldsherov graduated from Stuyvesant in 2002. His monologue, “piece of my home,” was featured in the “with their eyes” 2002 winter drama. Feldsherov now works at WilmerHale Law Firm.

“I don’t think I’ve really relived the exact feelings from that day, but seeing the memorial––the footprint of the two towers––it calls back to the emptiness in my heart where this event took place and will always be. I don’t know what emotion exactly I am experiencing, but it makes me think of all of my friends from high school––everyone who was there with us that day [...]

If we were together standing, looking at this memorial, we wouldn’t need to talk or say anything about it. We would all have that shared experience and shared feeling, and we would all be thinking different things but all be on the same wavelength in terms of being there, understanding it, and remembering it.”

Mohammad Haque (’02)

Mohammad Haque graduated from Stuyvesant in 2002. His monologue, “fearing for your safety,” was featured in the “with their eyes” 2002 winter drama. Haque is now a general dentist practicing in Queens, New York.

“It’s changed a lot about identity. As New Yorkers, as immigrants or first-generation immigrants—I was born in Queens—but there is this idea even in New York City, sometimes, of who is American, who is a New Yorker, and who is an ‘other,’ and these are ideas that unfortunately still perpetuate today. But I think for me specifically, it had to do a lot with identity. Not just as a South Asian American or Muslim American but as a New Yorker as well.”

Liz O’Callahan (’02)

Liz O’Callahan graduated from Stuyvesant in 2002. She was involved in the “with their eyes” 2002 winter drama as one of the 10 cast members. She is now a family physician.

“I discover more about how it’s affected me as the years go on. I think in some ways, as time goes on, you feel a bit more from the trauma of an event, but I think in other ways, as time goes on, you realize how much the trauma has been, and I think one of the learning points of any event like that is to recognize that the event will continue to have a ripple effect through the world but also through the individual life of a person. And how we respond to that is going to change over time. I think in school, we do [...] an explicit job of teaching facts, and I think one of the things that this has the ability to give back to us is a sense of learning about our humanity as just as important as learning about the facts that surround something. And if you can learn about the fact that people are affected by things in ways that aren’t always rational and things that don’t always appear immediately on the surface and things that change over time, that is also a valuable lesson to learn.”

Always Wear Your Walking Shoes

By Liz O’Callahan

Always wear your walking shoes

‘cause you never know how far

you may have to walk.

They told me to

go North but

They didn’t tell me when to stop.

So I kept walking.

Everyone flees.

The World has come crashing down

leaving a gaping hole where I stood


But I’m wearing

Comfortable shoes.

I’m ready to walk away

away from the ash

that falls like snow in winter

and my feet will carry me


This poem was published in The Spectator: New York Times 9/11 Commemorative Issue.

“As I was writing it, it was just a really simple thing, just a way to put pen to paper. I think at the time, I didn’t know yet about all the people who discarded their shoes because we heard in the weeks afterward and months and years the stories of people who were like, ‘I was in dress shoes for work that day. I was in pumps. I was in heels’ who took their shoes off and just discarded them to just get them home. Some people even stopped in place to buy sneakers. And all of the shoes that were left behind. It has become more poignant in my memory than it ever was when I was writing it.”

Jeff Orlowski (’02)

Jeff Orlowski graduated from Stuyvesant in 2002. He was the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectator and released The Spectator: New York Times 9/11 Commemorative Issue that is filled with personal pieces, voices, and photos from the Stuyvesant community. Orlowski is now a documentary filmmaker.

“At a very, very personal level, working in journalism in high school is what set me up to become a documentary filmmaker professionally and my ongoing career as a documentarian. As somebody who’s trying to capture and tell the stories of our society and civilization and to reflect back where the problems are, that has been a core focus of my work, and it has a direct connection to working at The Spectator and learning the ethics of journalism.”