Robert Hampton

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11th September 2011

I remember where I was when I heard the news. I was listening to the news.
Posted by at 6.26pm | No responses | In the News

On 11th September 2001 that was literally true for me.

My unemployed 19-year-old self had been meandering uselessly around Liverpool city centre for most of the morning. I arrived home just in time to hear the 2pm news on the radio and listened incredulously as the newsreader announced that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

I flicked on the TV just in time to see the second plane strike the towers, live on BBC News 24.

Searching for light relief later that evening, I found none. On the web forums and Usenet groups I frequented, the only topic of conversation was New York. I found a Frasier repeat on Paramount Comedy, but even that was tinged with the sad knowledge that one of the show’s creators had died aboard a hijacked plane that morning.

Of all the television moments from that day and its immediate aftermath, three stick in my mind:-

  • BBC reporter Stephen Evans reporting live on News 24 by phone from the scene, when suddenly the accompanying pictures showed one of the towers collapsing. The presenter in the studio asked Stephen for clarification, but the line was dead. For a horrifying few moments, the thought crossed my mind that Evans could have been buried live on TV.
  • This heartbreaking interview with the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, a company which lost hundreds of people in the disaster.
  • David Letterman, normally so irreverent and flippant, seemingly on the verge of tears during his show the following Monday.

Like many people I struggled to make sense of what had happened, I found myself “translating” the events and places into meaningful equivalents for me. How would I react if St John’s Beacon, or the Liver Building, had been destroyed? What if Liverpool Central station, rather than Cortlandt Street, had been crushed by the weight of a collapsing building? With that I was able to begin to comprehend the grief and anger that the American people felt.

There is much to debate about 9/11 and its aftermath, but just for today, leave that to one side, and take time instead to remember those who died.

Photo of WTC Light Memorial

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