I was at home in Collier Row, Romford. I had just set up the ironing board, ready to prepare my son an outfit for later when I was due to take him to Stratford station in East London to meet my sister who would be taking him off my hands for the evening. She was taking him to a ‘Here’say’ pop-concert (a group that consisted of five members – including Myleene Klass and Kym Marsh who are still on our screens today). I had also prepared myself a nice lunch, a rare treat including a chocolate bar. Usually I would be working at 2 pm. However, family duties had called and here I was about to indulge in a rare five minutes to myself.
I was 32 years old and a wife, married for four years and one week. I was a mother of my nine year old son, and stepmother to a stepson, who would be celebrating his 21st Birthday in twelve days’ time. He had been living with me since he was 16.
For the past seventeen months had been leading a secret double life. Monday – Friday from 11am until 3pm I became ‘Louisa’ the Sensual Masseuse. I was also one-side of a ‘Loveless Triangle’ and a whole other chapter!
Flopping down on the sofa, I flicked the TV remote. Time stood still as I watched in absolute horror as a plane crashed into the North Tower of the Trade Centre in New York – The newsreader relaying what had happened less than fifteen minutes earlier at 1:46 pm (9:46 am (US time) to me was babble). The footage unfolding in front of my eyes left me shaking; I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I watched in disbelief as another plane plunged into the South Tower in live coverage.
I couldn’t eat and as if in auto pilot, moved to the ironing board. Trying to get my act together, I prepared to fetch my boy from school. I left the television-set running. As I was about to walk out the door at 2:59 pm I glimpsed the screen and stood rooted to the spot as the South Tower collapsed in a dramatic haze of dust and smoke.
I collected my son from school. Whilst he got changed I prepared him something light to eat, as my sister was going to feed him later. I left the television on all the while. As we prepared to head for the station, the phone rang – it was my husband.
Working in New Scotland Yard, he was a Chief Inspector in The Public Order Operational Command Unit (CO11) – Central Operations unit of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. He had been involved in the area of major incident planning since 1996. He was also the National Emergency Procedures Co-ordinator for ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) from 2000. And he represented the UK on the Interpol Standing Committee on DVI (Disaster Victim Identification), which was one his specialty areas. His role included police family liaison officer (FLOs) in the disaster context, together with the humanitarian aspects of the disaster response; public inquiries; civil protection standards; and command and control of major incidents.
He was calling to tell me he would be home late. I don’t remember much about the conversation, we were both in shock!
After delivering my son to my awaiting sister at Stratford, I made my way to a friend who lived closer to where I was. I didn’t want to be alone, and I didn’t want to miss compelling footage. I stayed there until it was almost time for the return of my son. I watched the horrific sight as The North Tower followed the suit of the South Tower. My friend dropped me home and my sister returned my son to me shortly after. At nine years old, he didn’t understand what was happening in the world around him.
As my stepson and I sat at 10pm, our eyes glued to the screen, my husband returned home from work. Though it didn’t stop there. His mobile phone was a hive of activity; the landline began ringing non-stop as I answered call after call to officials whose messages I would relay back to him. As the dramatic events unfolded in my home, I would be watching them within five minutes relayed on our television screen. At one point he was ordering the body-bags which would bring home our UK victims.
Finally, at 4am the following morning all calls ceased. Silence fell upon our home. In a state of exhaustion, we climbed into bed and slept a fitful sleep, punctuated with dreams of the unfolding nightmare from the day’s event.
The September 11 attacks killed 2,996 people were killed by the September 11 attacks. More than 6,000 were injured. 2,606 people died at the World Trade Center.