A TV was turned on, no one could believe what they saw

Reporter:

Robert Platt

ALTHOUGH I lost no friends or family in the September 11 attacks, they will forever haunt my memory.

A decade later and so much has changed; I have lived more than 4,000 miles away from my home city, in Chester, for more than six years.

Meanwhile, my father William Platt is one of thousands of construction workers helping to rebuild the World Trade Centre complex, which consists of skyscrapers, a memorial and park and a giant transport hub.

But over the past couple of weeks, after seeing images of 9/11 circulating in the media, it has become clear my memories will always remain as vivid as they were on the day.

Although I had moved to North Carolina a few years before September 11, I still used to spend every summer with relatives in Long Island, on the outskirts of the city.

Only a week before the attacks, I was on one of these visits, and New York at the time was business as usual.

Thousands of professionals, students, tourists and immigrants flooded the streets, and it was impossible to imagine only a week later the city would be gripped by chaos and fear.

On September 11, I had gone back to North Carolina to start my final year in high school, and on my way to class I heard fellow students saying terrorists had attacked the World Trade Centre.

A television was switched on and no one could believe what they saw. I had certainly not expected anything of this magnitude. I remember a class mate saying to me, “That’s your city.”

When the plane hit the second tower and word came in of the Pentagon being attacked, blank stares quickly turned to panic.

Rumours abounded attacks were taking place all over the country, including one at a power plant in nearby Raleigh, North Carolina, which proved to be false.

When the 110-storey WTC structures came crashing down on thousands of people and hundreds of buildings, I was in disbelief.

The enormous ash clouds gave the appearance all of Lower Manhattan had been destroyed.

In a panic I ran to the school office to call home and see if word had come in from relatives and friends who lived and worked in the area.

Stories that unfolded over the coming weeks were horrific.

An aunt told me Long Island had virtually been shut down, with emergency services using entire highways as speed lanes and dozens of army helicopters flying overhead. The public transportation system, one of the world’s biggest, had been closed and as a result another aunt was forced to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with tens of thousands of others to evacuate Manhattan island.

Another friend’s father had worked near the site and had witnessed people jumping from the towers, and when the buildings came crashing down he was covered in clouds of toxic dust.

Meanwhile, one of my uncles was working in the Pentagon in Washington DC and was forced to flee when that was also hit by an aeroplane. Relatives said funerals were taking place every other day across Long Island, where countless firefighters and policemen who were killed had lived.

But now, a decade later, I can feel proud and also assured my father is safe while he helps build the new complex.

He is working on World Trade Two, one of four skyscrapers due to be completed on the 16-acre site by 2015.

In fact all of Lower Manhattan, which had been pulverised not just by the attacks but also a subsequent exodus of residents and businesses, is seeing a rejuvenation.

The area’s residential population more than doubled and a number of high-profile media companies, including Conde Nast, are flooding into the area.

While we reflect on the anniversary of this horrific event, we can at least be comforted by the examples of resilience and bravery that have prevailed.

See full story in the Leader

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