NEW YORK — Four Argentine survivors of a deadly terrorist attack in New York City this week said Friday they always will carry the pain of seeing five of their friends killed while on a trip they had long dreamed of that turned into a horrible nightmare.
Juan Pablo Trevisan, Ariel Benvenuto, Guillermo Banchini and Ivan Brajkovic gathered at the Argentine Consulate in New York. Banchini, speaking for the group in Spanish, read an emotional statement that brought tears to the eyes of consulate officials.
“Friendship has a profound significance for Argentinians,” Banchini said. “We were brought here because of a friendship that was born when we were young, and that always accompanied us. We will forever mourn our friends. Love brought us here, and love will continue to unite us”.
The four survivors belonged to a group of 10 who came to the city last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. Five of them died after an Uzbek citizen steered a rented truck onto a bike path Tuesday and sped south toward the World Trade Center, striking cyclists and pedestrians, killing eight. He was shot by a police officer after crashing the truck into a school bus.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29, survived. He was arraigned Wednesday on terrorism charges.
The Argentinian group bore the brunt of the fatalities. Their story of longtime friendship captivated many people, with media worldwide publishing a photo of most of them at the airport in Rosario, Argentina, looking giddy shortly before boarding their flight to the U.S.
The trip participants who died were Hernan Ferrucchi, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, Hernan Diego Mendoza, Ariel Erlij and Diego Enrique Angelini. Another one, Martin Marro, who lives near Boston, was seriously injured although he is expected to make a full recovery.
The four survivors hugged after Banchini read the statement, and applause erupted in the room. Deputy Consul General Eduardo Almirantearena had tears in his eyes.
“What has the world become? How could someone think, plan and execute a plan like this? We can’t get our heads around it,” Banchini said.
He called for love “ruling over hate and life prevailing over death.”
“We have to return home now. We have to accompany the inconsolable families of our friends,” he said. “Let us go with our pain to our homes.”
Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela, Robert Bumstead, Tamara Lush, Colleen Long, Larry Neumeister and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.