9/11 - 15 years on, we remember the day which changed life forever

It is a day which will always be remembered as one of the darkest in living memory.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 11th September 2016, 8:42 am
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 4:17 pm
9/11 attacks in New York.

September 11, 2001 was the day life changed forever.

It was the day when Osama Bin Laden-inspired Al-Qaeda terrorists flew two hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York and another into the Pentagon.

Another jet crashed in rural Pennsylvania as a group of passengers launched an heroic bid to overpower hijackers.

9/11 attacks in New York.

The devastating attacks left thousands dead and sent shockwaves across the world - a world that has never been the same since.

New stunning skyscrapers now stand where the landmark twin towers once proudly stood.

New York is once again the brash and bustling city it always was, but 9/11 will always be there casting its shadow over the place that never sleeps.

Now on the 15th anniversary of the atrocities, some of our staff remember that dreadful day with their own personal stories.

9/11 attacks in New York.

Jon Cooper, Derbyshire Times senior reporter

A phone call was picked up by my former colleague Don Collins who said someone had tipped us off that a plane had flown into the side of one of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Centre in America.

My first thought was that this must have been an accident with a small plane and my second thought as a regional news journalist was what could possibly be the local angle for us?

A further call suggested a second plane had gone into the second of the Twin Towers and it all seemed like a hoax until staff fled to our canteen to watch the true horror of what had really happened unfold on TV.

9/11 attacks in New York.

Shamefully, I had been working on a Dronfeld accident black-spot story at the time and I stayed rooted to my desk typing out my copy still expecting the whole thing to be a hoax.

As my colleagues failed to return to the newsroom, I feared this was no hoax and was horrified as I crept into the canteen to see all my work mates glued to the small TV screen watching the news in absolute disbelief.

This was an appalling global horror that made everyone stop in their tracks and sadly it has changed the shape of the world for decades to come.

For this reason we must never forget those who lost their lives and those who were left grieving and we must not give up on our own personal efforts to help shape a more tolerant and understanding society.

9/11 attacks in New York.

John Lomas, Chad sports editor

The fall of the Twin Towers was probably the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Someone shouted us into the canteen at the old Chad offices on Newgate Lane where the TV, having told us a plane had hit the tower - a tragic accident we wondered?

As we watched, the second plane hit. We were baffled and awe-struck. This was beyond terrible. This was deliberate.

The sight of those poor men and women, office colleagues, holding hands and jumping to their deaths like rag dolls from the upper floors will stay with me forever.

It could have been any of us on a mundane day in the office.

I have put my feelings into words with a song for my band Verbal Warning called Jumpers which should be on our new CD next year.

The first verse goes: From the smell of coffee and faxes whirring. To the open sky and the smell of burning. From keyboards clicking to the sound of screaming. The day changed quickly and without warning.

From out of nowhere the aeroplanes came. Through office walls amid the flames. A surreal moment beyond any nightmare. But no time left to stand and stare.

Mark Duffy, Ilkeston Advertiser sports editor

I was still on my summer break from university but had been in New York exactly a year before 9/11 happened, so when a friend of mine, who had also been there recently, told me to put the news on I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

At that point only the first tower had been hit and nobody really knew what had really gone on, but when the second plane struck I vividly remember going cold with shock, so much so I actually recall having to put the heating on in our house even though it was quite a warm day. That seems strange now but I think the enormity of what was happening had struck home.

Like many others, I just sat and watched in horror as the other events unfolded. The next day we found out someone from near where I lived in Essex was missing and was subsequently found to have died in one of the towers.

I’ve since been back to New York and to Ground Zero and it’s quite a surreal experience standing in the area where it all happened and casting one’s mind back to that day’s events.

Graham Smyth, Chesterfield FC correspondent, Derbyshire Times

Despite having grown up in Northern Ireland watching atrocities unfold on television, I remember seeing the planes going into the twin towers and thinking that this was unlike anything we’d ever seen before.

Bombs and terrorism was nothing new but even for those of us desensitised to violence, 9/11 was terror on a previously unimaginable scale.

I called a friend to see if they were watching and it was all we could think or talk about for days.

It’s still as staggering to see the footage now as it was 15 years ago.

Martin Hutton, Head of Community Content, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

I was at work in a bubble of meeting deadlines and was alerted to what was happening by a relative.

After finding a television to huddle around there was an overwhelming feeling of how surreal it was.

People’s lives were hanging in the balance before your eyes and at the moment the first tower came down you knew it was a world event of seismic proportions - an unprecedented attack on the Western way of life.

Information, theories, allegations and debate flooded in like a whirlwind.

But among it all, from a local perspective, I found out a nurse, a friend of mine, was in New York at the time and was helping victims. It was in stark contrast to what had been a total disregard for life.

Ben McVay, reporter

I was at home, having just awoken after being in bed in-between night shifts inputting grocery orders for prison inmates at a warehouse in Stafford.

This was when rolling news was still relatively new and I watched the BBC coverage most of the afternoon before going back to work.

Needless to say, the in-depth analysis of the my fellow warehouse operatives during fag breaks that night was razor-sharp and thought-provoking.

Jon Ball, Head of Content, Nottinghamshire

I was a trainee reporter on one of my first newspapers, the Royston Crow in Hertfordshire, having only been there a matter of weeks.. One of the sub-editors came in from his lunch and said something about a plane hitting the Twin Towers.

We stuck the office TV on and suddenly it was planes had hit both towers.

I remember everything ground to a halt and we all just stood around watching the TV for the rest of the day, unable to fully comprehend what we were seeing.

The footage was shocking, of people falling from the towers, before seeing the towers collapse live on TV in front of us.

On the floor above us in our office block was a small team from a finance company which also had an office in the World Trade Center. I remember being sent up the next morning to ask if they’d been affected anyway. I remember being really nervous as a raw young recruit having to go into this firm and ask about something so serious and horrifying, but they were all fine and seemingly no one from their business had been involved.

Andy Done-Johnson, Mansfield and Ashfield Chad content editor

I had a bird’s eye view of the 9/11 attacks. I wasn’t there, but it felt like it was. I was at journalism college standing in a room full of television screens when the news broke and we had the news from every angle as it broke.

We saw the first plane strike and watched in utter disbelief. Then, while we were still taking it in, the second plane came out of nowhere.It was appalling.

I drove home and sat on the sofa. My son was about six months old and it was my mother-in-law’s birthday. She’d been out for lunch with my wife and they knew nothing about it. We were all stunned.

Last year I was in New York and visited the site of the Twin Towers, the museum and the memorial. The skyscrapers have been replaced now and stand even taller, even more defiant, and crowd’s of people from all over the world snake around the square. NYC is back on its feet, but a shadow will always sit heavily over my favourite city.

Gay Bolton, features writer, Derbyshire Times

I was working as a sub editor at the Derbyshire Times when the news editor at that time dashed into the office and said - Oh my God - you’ll never guess what’s happened?”

She had been into the canteen for a break where she had seen the horror broadcast on television.

Work stopped briefly as we went to watch it on the screen, feeling numb and shaken to the core by the devastating sight.

Michael Broomhead, multi-media journalist, Derbyshire Times

At about 4pm on September 11, 2001, I returned home after a day at school and walked into the living room. The TV was on and I remember seeing a plane fly into a tower. I thought it was a film. Of course, it wasn’t - it was a very real tragedy.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching the news in horror at the unfolding disaster. At the time, I don’t think anyone could truly comprehend what was happening - especially my 13-year-old self.

The whole world changed - and I don’t think it’s ever been right since.

Fifteen years on, my thoughts are with everyone affected by the events of that terrible day.

Ashley Booker, Head of Content, Derbyshire

I was a reporter at the Chad in a newsroom busy working towards deadline on that week’s editions. I’ll always remember a colleague on our desk saying ‘a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center’.

I’ll be brutally honest, I had no idea what or where that was. I soon became fully aware . . .

A short time after, the tiny TV in our newsroom was switched on and we all stood back and stared in sheer disbelief at the footage of not one, but two aeroplanes slamming into the twin towers.

What happened thereafter has been well documented by others, but in the days after I was asked to find local links to the attacks. Were people from Mansfield and Ashfield caught up in the atrocities?

The pressure was on, but somehow I managed to obtain details for a Shirebrook businessman who had been on the subway in Lower Manhattan just minutes before the first plane crashed into the WTC.

He had a lucky escape, but many thousands of others didn’t. They didn’t return home to their loved ones on that dreadful day which saw the way we live our lives attacked in such a brutal and devastating manner.

Julia Rodgerson, Derbyshire Times content editor

I was working in the former Bakewell Factory Shop when my boss phoned to say something had happened in America. I didn’t have a smartphone then so it was hard to tell exactly what was going on.

Customers were coming in to the shop saying ‘there’s been a plane crash’ but the general impression at the time was that it was a tragic accident.

It was only when I got home and turned on the TV and saw the rolling news that I realised the scale of the disaster.

Louise Cooper, Digital Editor, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

I was working in a pub at the time and we had Sky News on the big screen at the end of the bar. I remember a colleague rushing up and telling us what was happening and the entire pub fell silent as all the customers and staff gathered around the screen watching the tragedy unfold.

It was so hard to take in, it just seemed like a scene from a movie and even to this day, I find it hard to comprehend the horror of that day.

New York always has been, and always will be, an incredible city. The events of 9/11 were an absolute tragedy but the enduring legacy for me, and many other people, has to be the city, the country, and the entire world coming together to help those who needed it.

The resolve of New Yorkers, and the strength of the human spirit in the wake of this tragedy was fantastic. We must take positives like this from such atrocities in order to overcome the terrorists.

My thoughts go out to all those who lost loved ones and have been affected by 9/11.