Eyewitness report New York
Former Greendown School student Guljit Rana from Peatmoor was in Manhattan the day the terrorists struck and describes the experience.
On the morning of 11 September, I was awoken by a phone call from a cousin in England, frantic to know if I was OK and how close I was to the World Trade Centre. These questions would turn out to be the most commonly asked to anyone who happened to be anywhere near New York.
As I hurried down my street to 7th Avenue I noticed the crowd of hundreds standing still and looking up, but not even this surreal image could have prepared me for what I was about to see as I edged closer round the corner, and the south of Manhattan became more clear.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were ablaze, there were people crying on the street, a taxi driver slowly managed to get through a crowd of people only to inform them that the Pentagon had been hit also. In no time at all it was apparent that there was another plane on the way to the White House, and at one point rumour spread of a third plane on its way to Manhattan. The effect this had on my senses was too much to compute, the crowd thought that this was the end, and the few that could cope no longer began to pass out.
No Hollywood feature could have recreated what was happening, and no writer could have foreseen what was about to happen. When th
e first tower fell, it became obvious that words like disbelief and shock would never be able to convey what the citizens of New York were feeling. But when the second tower fell, it was clear that there were no words at all to describe what was happening.
The noise was like no other. The only reason people were still watching after the first fell down, was because there was still something to look at, almost a symbol of hope, but that too was destroyed.
The memories of the perpetual sound of sirens, subways closed, bridges shutdown, the city at a total stand-still with 450,000 tonnes of debris are burnt into my mind. So is witnessing the queues of people stretching blocks to donate blood, more than the hospitals could handle; the mayor announcing that they had more than enough volunteers; the unity of the public, when they knew there was only one way of regaining the strength to get the city back on to its feet, and that was to start helping each other.
Photo taken by Guljit Rana
Condemning the terrorists
Mohammad Salas Khan, 62, a representative of two Muslim groups in Swindon, the Pakistan Welfare Association and Jamia Mohammadia (spiritual group), who was presented with an award by the Prime Minister last year for his services to the community, writes,
I condemn the most dastardly act of the unknown killers, who have disowned humankind in the terrorist action at the World Trade Centre.
We Muslims are peace loving people, but we know that there are good and bad in every religion and race. Islam means peace.
There are over two billion Muslims in the world; only a microscopic minority support terrorism. Few share the objectives of the Taliban, nor do they want to have any links with Osama bin Laden.
This obviously underscores the need to clearly draw a distinction between the extremist religious groups and the huge body of the great monotheistic world faith, Islam.
Therefore before acting President Bush, please ensure that no stone is left unturned in seeking truth and nothing but the whole truth before attacking.
His agencies have failed, but they must not fail again by making villains out of innocents. We hope that a true united effort will find the terrorists and that they will be brought to justice and heavily punished.
We also condemn the brutal attack in Swindon on a Muslim girl on 14 September. We very much hope that innocent people will be protected in all Western countries, and if force is to be used, no civilian population will be targeted in any part of the world. The gap between rich and poor in the world is widening. Wealth is used for making new weapons, but many poor families are suffering on earth.
Let us pray to God to help us all find peace with each other.
In honour of the guys from the NYFD
Swindon fire fighters paraded on 14 September in honour of their brave colleagues, and the thousands of innocent people, who perished at the World Trade Centre
By Sub-officer Martin Lloyd of Westlea Fire Station
At the beginning of April this year, three Swindon firefighters, Station Officer Pete Townsend, Assistant Divisional Officer John Popowicz and I, travelled to the United States on a fact-finding trip to North Charleston and Savannah.
Because of flight transfers, we were fortunate enough to have two days in New York. Due to finances, the only way that we could visit the city and not bankrupt ourselves was by staying in a fire station on 8th Avenue, the home of Engine 54 and Ladder 4. The firefighters we met could not have been friendlier. We were made most welcome by the duty crew who wanted to know all about us.
Within a short space of time it became apparent that our stay on the station was not going to be a restful one. It seemed that every couple of minutes the station alarm was going off and the crews were responding to a firecall. The battalion that the station fell in was right in the middle of the theatre district in midtown Manhattan.
The station next in line was the home to Rescue 1, a search and rescue appliance whose sole purpose was to carry out rescue of people trapped by fire or building collapse, and vehicle extrication.
Rescue 1 buried under the rubble
The firefighters of Rescue 1 are considered the ‘cream’ of the New York Fire Department. They are dedicated in the extreme, very professional, committed to helping the public they serve. It was desperately sad to see a picture of their vehicle crushed beneath tons of rubble and to hear that they were not to survive the unfolding dramas of 11 September.
We all enjoyed the time we spent looking around the city, most of it a blur, trying to take in as much as possible in a short time. Those of you who have been to New York know that the twin towers were one of the most imposing sights. The sheer size was overwhelming, making it one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. We were no exception, spending time at the top looking out from the observation level.
The memories of the visit have now been placed into a totally different perspective. Our hearts go out to all the people involved in the tragic aftermath of the terrorist attack on Tuesday 11 September – the office workers, the tourists, the firefighters, police, medics – to anybody involved in the continuing tale of rescue and recovery under circumstances that we cannot even imagine.
As for the firefighters of Engine 54 and Ladder 4, and also Rescue 1, sadly we know that many of them lost their lives. We were shocked to see the picture in the papers of Rescue 1 buried under rubble, and the gallery of missing firefighters in The People newspaper on 16 September was chilling. They were such a cheerful bunch of guys, and heroes one and all. We pray for their families.
Where was God?
Sheila Mitchell from Westlea in Swindon writes
I been researching the life of Hannah Lightfoot, believed to be the morganatic wife of George III, for some years. On the 92nd floor of the New York World Trade Centre on 11 September a lady who has shared my interest in Hannah for some time, was working.
I had never met Cindy Dueul but both she and her brother had corresponded over the last two years on the subject of Hannah. Sadly she has not been found.
I dedicate this poem to Cindy.
Questions for God
Where were you God when the planes took off,
With evil intentions aboard?
Where were you God when the stabbings began and the screams of terror were heard?
Where were you God when the planes crashed slicing through walls like a knife?
Where were you God as the fires began and the terror, the pain and the strife?
Where were you God when the people jumped fearing outside less than within?
Where were you God as the firemen searched putting their lives on the line?
Where were you God when the walls fell crashing to earth with a thud?
Burying survivors and saviours alike in debris, fire and blood?
How did you choose who would die God and how did you choose who’d survive?
Where were you when the lightening came and thunder with crashing roar?
Where were you when the rain came hampering rescue attempts?
Where were you God when the people cried calling out for your help?
What relief did you give God to the relatives as they searched?
Whose side were you on God when the muslims cheered in your name.
As they watched the chaos their actions had caused, the pain and devastation within.
Whose side are you on when the war comes with both sides revering your name?
Where will you be when the carnage begins and more die or are maimed in your name?
How will you choose who the victor will be when such evil eats at mens’ hearts?
In the battle so far evil has scored and love and goodness have lost.
Where will you be at the final hour when battle has laid earth to waste?
When mankind has fought to oblivion and no one is left to hate.
Will that be the time to begin again God when God but no religion remains?