Recent alum torches New York 9/11 chapel


Recent Harvard Law School alumnus Brian Schroeder ’09 allegedly set fire to a chapel in Manhattan on the morning of October 31st, according to various New York media outlets, including the New York Times. The chapel, located in Memorial Park, at First Ave. and 30th St., houses the remains of unidentified victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Media that reached the scene have indicated that the remains, which are housed in a climate-controlled vault while they await DNA identification, were not affected, but that cards, flowers, and other mementoes both inside the chapel and posted to a wooden bench in the park, which was damaged, were either stolen or burned. 

Schroeder, 26, is originally from Texas. The valedictorian of his high school, he received his undergraduate degree from Duke, where he majored in theatre studies. He was co-president of HLS Lambda and served on a task force to assess how to limit the impact of military recruiting on the campus gay community. He also edited the Harvard Latino Law Review and acted in the Parody, a satirical comedy stage show about life at the school. After graduation, Schroeder moved to New York, where he had been a summer associate in 2008 for the law firm Sidley Austin. Having accepted the firm’s deferral package, he was due to start as an associate there in 2011, after spending a year working at a pro bono organization with a stipend provided by the firm. Schroder was planning to use the time to work in human rights law in Switzerland. On Monday, Sidley Austin officially revoked his job offer.

He turned himself in to the police on November 1st, and his lawyer has claimed he was drugged while the incident took place, perhaps because something had slipped into his drink. There have also been allegations that the fire was set as part of a drunken dare. Still, Schroeder’s motives remain unclear. He says he cannot remember what took place that night.

“Anyone who would set fire to the inviolable Memorial Park chapel is craven and contemptible,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. The New York Daily News labeled him “New York’s newest Public Enemy #1”. Speaking to the newspaper about the incident, Sally Regenhard, whose son was a firefighter killed in the attacks, asked “why are the good people gone and the losers still with us?” The city’s deputy fire chief said he didn’t “know what they teach those kids at Harvard”. Schroeder’s mother called his actions “dumb” but said her son had committed an isolated incident that did not reflect his general character.

Schroeder was released the night of his arrest on bail. Charges for arson are currently pending.

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