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Community News
Student’s Video Captures Classmates’ Reaction
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 21 page 6-6

The Manhattan skyline was clearly visible just across the Hudson River in Kearney, N.J., on the sunny morning of September 11. Students at Kearney High School were in first period when a teacher saw the first plane crash into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

"We spilled outside and then saw the second plane crash. Some students were sobbing but most of us were in shock. Some students had parents who worked in the towers. The next day classes were cancelled, and we spent the day talking about what had happened," said Yuri Alves, a senior at the school.

"I realized this was an important event in history and decided to make a 10-minute video that captured the students’ perspective on the attacks. I wanted to do something that was in your face so people would remember how they felt and what had happened," Alves told Psychiatric News. Alves said he is an aspiring filmmaker who has produced videos on HIV disease and the Columbine shooting.

He put together a video in four days that takes viewers through live images of the towers being hit and then burning, the reactions of people in his school, and a poem read by a student that emphasizes the will of the American people to go on. The video ends on a patriotic note with a shot of the American flag accompanied by the song "God Bless America."

The video was shown at two Kearney High School assemblies exactly one week after the attacks.The students watched in complete silence. "Half the people cried afterward. One teacher came up to me and thanked me for making the video, saying it was what she needed to go on," said Alves.

Anna Vander Schraaf, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist who is active in the New Jersey Psychiatric Association, saw the video by Alves when she spoke at the Kearney High School assemblies. "Yuri did a great job giving his schoolmates a voice. He made life in the school a stage around which they experienced those stressful days after the attacks. The video and assembly also had a unifying effect on the school," Vander Schraaf told Psychiatric News.

The high school invited her to speak after talking to her on the phone when she was volunteering at a local Red Cross chapter. Vander Schraaf talked to the students about her experience driving into Manhattan the morning of September 11 and seeing the attacks. She reviewed some common reactions to trauma and urged the students to put their energies into doing something constructive.

Alves certainly got the message and so did other students who organized car washes and bake sales to raise money for the victims’ families.

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