I was sitting at my desk on the balcony at Politico’s talking to my bookkeeper when I suddenly noticed that Sky News had switched to Fox and were showing smoke coming from a tall tower. As the situation became clearer I remember seeing a spec on the skyline coming closer to the tower. I assumed a small light aircraft had hit it. In the corner of the screen I noticed a spec moving across the screen. ‘Jesus, there’s another plane’, I remember saying. ‘Oh my God, it’s going to hit the other tower’. Crash. Fire. Carnage. But it wasn’t until the first tower collapsed that the true horror hit me. People down below in the shop stood watching the bigger screen in silence. Someone rushed out the door saying her sister worked at the World Trade Centre and she had to phone her.
At that moment I thought of my friend Daniel Forrester who I knew worked there from time to time. Indeed his father had a corner office in one of the towers. I tried to ring him. The number didn’t work. I remember helping a customer ring her boyfriend in China to tell him what was happening. His father worked in one of the towers. I kept trying to call Daniel, becoming increasingly frantic. Eventually he called me. The emotion of the day caught up with me and I can remember speaking to him with tears running down my face, trying to keep my voice from breaking up completely.
I remember thinking how brilliantly Sky had coped with the coverage. I think Kay Burley was broadcasting at the time. She had come a long way from her first job on TVAM. That day she came of age. It wasn’t until much later in the day that I started to think about the political implications. I could not understand why President Bush hadn’t sought to immediately reassure his weeping nation. It was not his finest hour.
September 11th 2001 was a day that changed the world. It robbed a generation of its innocence and its consequences will be felt for decades to come. But there is one thing it did not shake – and that is the alliance between the two greatest free nations on earth – the United States and the United Kingdom. Some of the most evil regimes in the world have tried to defeat the cause of freedom which our two nations exemplify. They failed in the first world war, they failed in the second and they are failing now. As long as the cherished flame of freedom burns in the hearts of true democrats we’ll never give ground to those who seek to destroy us. Indeed, we must destroy them.
This is no normal conflict and it is a conflict which will endure for many years to come. It is a conflict which demands extraordinary leadership from extraordinary people, which demands courage and bravery from those who defend us. We are fortunate that there is no shortage of that. We should salute them.