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September 11th 2001 ~ Where were you?


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As we pause to reflect on the events from 20 years ago today, and I am sure UK TV is as full of 'special programming' and documentaries about this date as Canadian TV is (but maybe not as much as USA TV) it got me thinking - where was I on the day? What do i recall from then? How did it change my life (if at al)?

Well, it may not surprise too may folk, but I was in Toronto, as a visitor though, not a resident, visiting my then girlfriend, now wife. We had just come back the previous night from a weekend trip to Niagara Falls but - and this is where it gets spooky - we had scaled back what was supposed to be a longer trip to New York that weekend and into the early part of the week and decided instead just to go to Niagara Falls mainly because getting across the USA/Canada border with a British passport requires a few more hoops to jump through than a Canadian one and as we would be taking a train then it was just too much hassle ... if we had gone with the original plan, we would have been in New York that morning although likely to have been jumping on a return train in midtown later that day rather than near a plane or sightseeing in lower Manhattan. 

The apartment I had rented for my stay in Toronto had a direct view of the CN Tower and I recall looking out the window with one eye whilst watching TV with the other wondering if Toronto's tallest building was next. We had also arranged to meet up with my mum later that day in downtown Toronto for dinner. She was staying out of town with a relative and had to come in on the train. The city was deserted, and everyone was in shock, so it was a surreal meeting to say the least. For some bizarre reason I remember dinner was at the 'Loose Moose' near Union Station and we had Calamari and seafood!  The flight back to Scotland a week or two later was also the scariest of my life ... not a bad flight, just everyone scared to get on a plane ... and of course, wasn't I seated next to a structural engineer who explained to me in great detail his theory of how and why the buildings collapsed rather than withstood the impact ... I guess it could have been worse, he didn't seem to be a conspiracy theorist! 

How did it change me? Well, I love to travel so that has obviously changed in terms of restrictions and precautions in place, but I can honestly say it changed my life entirely. I decided that day that life was too short, you didn't know what was around the corner (eerily accurate now too) so i then decided to pop the question .... that was 2001 and I moved to Canada in 2003 after going through 2 years of immigration paperwork and have been here ever since so that one event changed me completely ..... I also now work for an engineering company so encounter loads of structural engineers in my daily life! 

May post some pictures of a deserted Toronto that day if I can find them later .... 

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It was early afternoon in the UK.  I was in my office just north of the West End of London.  There were three or four of us in the office, but we didn't have a TV or radio, so were relying on the internet.  However, it wasn't as robust then as it is now - or perhaps even today it would still be overloaded - so it was impossible to get a reliable connection to a news site.  To any external website, in fact.

I was on a mailing list comprising a bunch of fans of the rock group Deep Purple, which had been set up because the crazies had taken over the Usenet newsgroup (remember them?).  One member of the group was sitting in a building in New York, and could see, thankfully at a distance, what was happening.  Another of the members was a weather forecaster at a TV station in Sweden, so he was watching the newsfeeds.  Both were keeping us up to date, by email, with what was happening.  An interesting illustration of how information will propagate through the net, despite any difficulties.

 

At the time, my wife worked for Citigroup in Canary Wharf.  When you see pictures of the three tallest towers in Canary Wharf, one of the two smaller, flat-roofed ones is the Citigroup tower.  My wife was on the umpteenth floor.

Her colleagues knew lots of people in the World Trade Center.  In fact, one of her colleagues, who was sitting close by, was talking to someone there when suddenly the line went dead....

If you have flown into Heathrow, you may know that the usual approach is westwards across the centre of London, along the line of the Thames.  There is usually a continuous stream of low-flying planes passing close to Canary Wharf.  So quite a few people started nervously eyeing the line of planes, waiting for one or more to veer off and start heading towards Canary Wharf.

Eventually, it became obvious that no work was going to be done that afternoon, so she and her colleagues were told to go home if they wished.  But to walk down the umpteen flights of stairs, and not risk the lifts.

 

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I was just at work that day, after which we had our weekly 5-a-side but with none of the usual banter, minds were elsewhere. I think ICT were away to Albion Rovers in the League Cup that evening and won 2-0, but few really cared.

Later that month my girlfriend and I were booked to go on holiday to New York. We didn’t really want to go, but flights resumed in time and we established that we weren’t entitled to any sort of refund if we cancelled so we just went. The flight was a bit scary, much of it spent looking suspiciously at a Muslim man in a nearby seat.

Once there the place was quiet with few tourists but we were made incredibly welcome in shops and restaurants. It was so harrowing to see home made missing person posters all over the place, condolence books at fire stations, and smoke still rising from the scene.

On our last day there the Empire State Building reopened so we went up it (not much queue…). We watched any approaching planes slightly nervously, but life goes on. I’d love to go back in more normal times.

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Was at work. Watched it unfold on the BBC website. Went to the game at Cliftonville which I found reassuring. The Rovers fans had great patter and it was great to be reminded of normal people who don't kill.

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I was working in Stornoway and when came back to the telephone exchange one of the engineers said did you hear about the twin towers?  I thought he was going to tell me a joke but then he told me more and we went up and put on the TV, what a shock seeing the pictures and coming to terms with what had happened.

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I was in a meeting in Aberdeen and unaware for some time, but could not believe what had happened and the sheer devastation and loss of life.

It certainly showed the vulnerability of the civilised world and how we can take nothing for granted.

With recent events in Afghanistan, the risk of similar atrocities in the future remains, sadly. 

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Junior and I were on our up the West Main line heading for Motherwell and thence to Albion Rovers (by taxi) for our Tuesday night fixture. I recall receiving a text off Yompa (known as Interthenet in those days) telling me an aeroplane had crashed into the World Trade Centre. I'll be honest here, I didn't really know what the WTC was at the time. Not being a world traveller and mostly 'blind' to other modern structures of this world I soon found out what it was. Once that hit home my immediate thoughts went to all those poor folk that had perished there and what those trying to escape were going through. Then the news of the second crash and then the collapse of the towers. A sense of horror and shock. The taxi driver talked about nothing else. The events of that day took the shine off our 2-0 win. It was also the first time I'd met Interthenet. 

I worked in Birmingham City centre at that time and on my why to the office I pass by a 10 story office building. In my mind I added another 100 floors. The shear scale of putting that 'view' in my mind was just awful.

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I was in my office when I got a 'phone call from a colleague.

Since I had no more appointments scheduled for that afternoon and my office was yards from the house, I went home and warched events unfold in front of the TV.

Whilst I was alive at the time of JFK's assassination, I was a mere toddler and have no recollection of it.

Accordingly, 9/11 is one of the two seminal events in my life where I remember exactly where I was when I heard of it.

The other was the Dunblane massacre which I heard about when I was working in Falkirk and spent the journey home tuned to Radio Scotland which I usually only listen to for the football.

Edited by Kingsmills
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