Twenty Years On
I was working as an area manager for the now-defunct "Money Shop" - conducting some sort of training session in the utilitarian loft space of the newly opened North Shields office on Nile Street in the town centre. The manager of our York office rang me first, then I was sort of bombarded with phone calls from staff in the region who were watching it unfold, and listening to the news feed on radio. It seemed that some type of collective hysteria had taken immediate hold of people - and the events playing out thousands of miles across the Atlantic were striking fear into people working in our offices in town centres throughout the North of England. I had requests to shut premises from worried managers who seemed convinced that Carlisle or South Shields were going to be the next targets for terrorists. My unsympathetic directors weren't the type to pull the shutters down for any reason, so I had to balance the emotional state of staff with the fact that this was an event happening in another world entirely. Of course we all got through the working day unscathed, and everyone headed home to sit in front of the TV - mouth agape, as the video feeds were repeated over and over again.
My own shock was heightened by the fact that I'd been at the top of the south tower quite a few times when visiting the city. The buildings were the focal point of the glorious metropolis of New York, and the sheer joy of taking in the vista from the rooftop observatory was an experience unmatched in any other place on earth. The scale of the construction was vast, and the thought of them being reduced to rubble so quickly is unbelievable. We'd gone there in the autumn of 2000.