David in New York

You’ll have seen some of the terrible news out of New York about terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (as well as the Pentagon in Virginia and Pennsylvania. If not, see CNN, or the New York Times)

This morning, I was attending a training session in CA Headquarters, Islandia (on Long Island, about an hour out of Manhattan). A fellow trainee brought a website up on the screen with what looked like a faked picture of one of the World Trade Center towers – a building I had visited only a day earlier. I’d assumed it was a promotion for a new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. A short time later, there was a similar ‘faked’ picture of a massive fireball on the other tower. A few people had gathered around the screen, or were checking the news for themselves. I read the text, and could not believe what I was reading: someone had coordinated an attack on the heart of New York.

When the training session broke (shortly before 10) it was only starting to dawn what had happened. It was only words on a page at that stage, and some unbelievable pictures. I headed for the cafeteria with some colleagues as we discussed the event in a state of shock. As we walked, we passed another group who were discussing a relative who was in one of the *collapsed* towers.
Collapsed? It was inconceivable. We didn’t believe it. I felt a little sick.

It was early morning, and the corridoors were full, but everyone was headed in the same direction; the cafeteria.

Several hundred staff were congregating in front of a half-dozen television sets, which displayed scene after scene of massive devastation. In all the smoke, we couldn’t tell that the second tower had by that stage collapsed. Someone passing by said that there were four planes down; the others were at the Pentagon and Pittsburgh.

I resolved at that stage to only believe the pictures; there was so much speculation going on about what was happening. But sure enough, the television showed four crash sites (at that stage, there was no vision of the actual crashes, just the aftermath. We didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t even know if there were passengers in the planes. There couldn’t be, could there?) Someone else passed and commented to us that there were now four planes down, and as far as we knew, it wasn’t over.

For a fleeting moment, I considered whether or not we were a target; being at the headquarters of a multinational corporation (note: at that stage, we didn’t know if the attacks would stop). All sorts of stuff goes through your head at that stage. But I was like everyone else; this could not be happening. I was walking those streets days ago. I was lucky enough to have seen the ‘old’ Manhattan skyline before it was destroyed.

A meeting I was due to attend was about to start. I didn’t need to confirm that it was cancelled.

People who weren’t stabbing at unresponsive cell phones were staring in disbelief at the pictures: those daring enough made the observation that *thousands of people were in those towers* and fell silent.

Training continued – what else could you do? There was a large contingent of international visitors at the training, and they were fielding phone calls from distraught relatives who assumed the impact was wider. People huddled around websites and TVs for the rest of the day.

After several attempts, I was able to get a line to Perth to let my family know that all was well. Ainslie was able to tell me far more than what I knew: Australia was getting the same saturation coverage which we were getting in NY. She gasped down the phone as footage was played of a plane plouging into one of the buildings.

I am safe, and unsure what is in store. There’s no doubt this is the start of a war, but I don’t know what that means. I also don’t know that I’m where I should be right now, half a world away from home, but I haven’t got a choice. The mongrels who stole those planes took it away.

I’ll post updates as I can (it’s difficult to maintain an internet connection at the moment), but be assured that I’m well out of danger.