MU grads in Manhattan

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NEW YORK - MU alumni living in New York said they were shocked to learn about the terror attack in Manhattan that killed eight people and injured a dozen more.

2015 graduate Michael Sojka works about five miles from where the suspect drove a truck into a bike lane around 3 p.m.

"I heard like sirens, but I hear sirens here all the time so you’re kind of desensitized to it, so I didn’t think too much of it," he said.

Brenden Clark, a 2008 MU graduate, works inside the World Trade Center and said, initially, he didn't know what to think of the dozen emergency vehicles he saw.

"New York will sometimes do these drill things, so I thought it was maybe one of those dry runs with all of the emergency vehicles there," he said.

Liz Pierson, who graduated from MU in 2013, also works in the World Trade Center, but on the northwest part of the building where there was a perfect view of everything happening. 

"When we started hearing sirens, the first siren, we kind of went to the window and we watched maybe a couple dozen emergency vehicles over the course of five to 10 minutes show up and sadly we kind of had a front row view to this," Pierson said.

Sojka said he didn't realize how bad things were until he started to get "tons of texts from people asking me if I was okay."

"Then I looked more into it and then I saw Facebook had the 'mark that you’re safe' button and I was like 'wow this is actually a big thing,'" 

Pierson said co-workers began going around asking if people knew family or friends that would be in that part of town. 

"I had a friend that went into the subway near that street just two minutes before it happened, someone else had their mother near there at the time of the incident," she said. "Then your family and friends are texting and checking in, which is comforting but also kind of heightens the anxiety a little bit."

Once the news came out that the incident was terror-related, being in the World Trade Center created some more anxiety. 

"Being at the World Trade Center, it's sort of an iconic building and you know what happened so many years ago," Clark said. "I think a lot of people started to get real concerned as to what was going to happen for the rest of the day and a lot of us made the decision to start going home early."

The former MU students said they don't often get concerned about living in the highly populated New York City, even with all of the mass terror incidents going on in the world. Clark, however, said his behavior has changed a bit in the last two years. 

"As we see these incidents happening with the drivers going through crowds, things like that, it has made me a little bit more cautious or aware of certain areas of the city that are really high density," he said.

Sojka said the high police and security presence around the city has always made him feel more safe.

Pierson said she doesn't like to spend too much thinking about the "what ifs."

"Generally, no, I’m not worried about it," Pierson said. "I think that worry creates fear and I don’t want to be afraid of the place that I live."

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