9/11 TEN YEARS ON: Reader’s memories

Ray Cossey and his wife Theresa had been attending a reunion in Baltimore, together with veterans of the 303rd Bomb Group, who had served with the wartime USAAF in England. They had spent September 9 with the group's members visiting the Military Cemetery at Arlington, Washington DC, just across the road from the Pentagon building.

On the day of the attacks, they were in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and friends took them to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Mr Cossey, of Blofield Corner Road, Little Plumstead, said: 'There was a radio on in the background at the restaurant, but my ears pricked up when I caught the words of an announcer: 'reports are coming in of a plane that has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York'. Someone called out for the waitress to turn up the radio and, as the next few minutes passed, it became very clear that this was a very dramatic scenario,' he said. They returned to their friends' home and watched events unfold on TV.

'We then watched in total horror the events unfurling in Washington DC and the partial destruction of the Pentagon, at the very place we had been standing only 48 hours before, almost to the minute. It was simply unbelievable and, like our American hosts, we were left in a state of almost total shock.'

Because of flying restrictions, the couple spent a further two weeks in America, but their presence was appreciated.

'On realising we were British people, they warmly shook our hands and thanked us for being there to give them our moral support. They kept telling us just how grateful they were that the British government had been the very first to offer their own country help and support.'

Graham Ventham from Cringleford and his wife Sue were on holiday in Florida. They had taken their daughter Sarah to the Discovery Cove theme park to swim with dolphins as her 18th birthday treat.

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Having had a memorable day, they tried to call the UK but could not get a connection.

'At about 4pm the park was closing. I went to have a shower and overheard two guys saying there were no planes out of Orlando for the next two days which was worrying as we were due to fly out two days later. I asked them why but couldn't get much of an answer as I remember,' said Mr Ventham.

It was only as they switched the car radio on that they became aware of the attacks. 'Once back at the house we caught up with events and couldn't believe we hadn't been aware of what was happening.' On the day they were due to leave America, they headed to Orlando Sandford airport.

'The airport and surrounding areas were absolutely packed with thousands of returned hire cars as no one was arriving to take them,' said Mr Ventham.

With airspace closed, they were taken back to stay at the Sheraton Twin Towers Hotel opposite Universal Studio. After two nights, they flew home.

He added: 'My overwhelming memory as we took off was how much the world had changed in the time we had been away and what was going to happen in the US and whether we would return. I'm pleased to say we have – a number of times.'

Pipe organ builder David Wilson from Hellesdon was in the USA for a tuning, maintenance and sales trip.

He said: 'I was driving from one appointment in Maine down toward my next one in Connecticut and during the drive was completely oblivious to what was happening until my mobile phone rang.

It was my wife phoning from home in Norwich asking if I'd heard the news, followed shortly after by my office in Brandon, Suffolk, wanting to know where I was, was I OK, where was I going to, had I heard the news. At that point I didn't realise the enormity of it until listening to news reports on the car radio. I checked into a motel that afternoon and sat at a bar and watched events on the screen.'

He remembered commenting with a fellow traveller about how the world as we knew it had just changed. On September 12 he had a sales call at a church in Greenwich, Connecticut, hoping to sell them a new pipe organ but found his customers a 'little tense' as some of the church members worked in the World Trade Center and they were awaiting news. But they insisted on going ahead with the meeting and slowly news filtered through that their members were safe.

Rob Macleod now works as a civil servant on the St Andrew's Business Park, but on September 11 he was in New Jersey in the IT department of a British shipping company.

'From my office in New Jersey I had a much better view of the Manhattan skyline than most New Yorkers – it filled the horizon across the Hudson River.

'Driving in that day, I had to brake and swerve around four or five stationary cars that had stopped to look at the first tower on fire from the vantage point of the elevated ramp. Once in work, I saw the explosion from the second plane strike.'

Soon after, Rob, now 53 and living in Norwich, saw a massive cloud of dust. 'As I saw the dust settle and realised the tower had gone, I thought the chances of many people getting out were slim,' he said.

As evening approached he took a walk in the town of Rutherford where he lived. 'The bell in the Plymouth Brethren church was tolling and at Rutherford rail station people were waiting for relatives and for any trains that were returning with passengers from Hoboken and the City.'

Bernard and Margaret Doughty from Sprowston were staying with relatives in Ontario, Canada, just across the river from Detroit on the day of the attacks.

They were due to fly to Los Angeles two days later, but flights were grounded. Eventually they flew to LA on September 14 and a few days later arrived in New York.

Here they found restaurants displaying photographs of customers who were missing.

Mr Doughty said: 'In Grand Central Station, a huge hoarding carried hundreds of photos, making real the magnitude of the loss. We made our way to St Patrick's Cathedral with the intention of sitting quietly to reflect and pray. A Requiem Mass was in progress for a fire chief who had last been seen entering one of the Twin Towers.

'Where his coffin should have rested there was only a framed photograph. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Head of New York Fire Department made stirring speeches and then the daughter of the fire chief calmly entered the pulpit and urged us to remember the good things of 9/11 – the selfless and sacrificial help of one individual for another. As the service progressed to the Mass we were privileged to share the 'peace' with police and firemen with an overwhelming sense of sharing in their grief. This, above all, is the memory which will remain as long as we live.'

Bernard and Margaret Doughty, from Sprowston, were staying with relatives in Ontario, Canada, just across the river from Detroit on the day of the attacks.

But their most vivid memory of the 9/11 attacks came a few days later when they arrived in New York and were privileged to witness a moving memorial service at the city's St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral.

'When we were in Ontario, as news of the attack on the twin towers was broadcast, fears were expressed that government buildings in Detroit could also be a target. We were due to fly to LA two days later but the grounding of all flights cancelled that.'

Instead, they drove to Toronto airport on Friday, September 14 and waited all day for a flight.

'At midday, a service of remembrance with three minutes silence was broadcast over the tannoy and as a bell tolled, everybody stood with heads bowed and tears running down their cheeks,' said Mr Doughty.

Late that evening they boarded an American Airlines flight to LA on what was a special holiday to celebrate Mr Doughty's retirement from the Laurence Scott company after 40 years with the firm.

'Having boarded we sweltered for over an hour while Canadian and US officials disputed whether to take off or not,' he said. 'Five hours later we touched down in LA and the captain's announcement of our arrival was greeted with spontaneous applause from the passengers – another tearful occasion.'

Several days later, they arrived in New York to find restaurants displaying photographs of customers who were missing.

'In Grand Central Station, a huge hoarding carried hundreds of photos, making real the magnitude of the loss,' he said. 'We made our way to St Patrick's Cathedral with the intention of sitting quietly to reflect and pray.

'We found the building surrounded by police and firemen and their vehicles. Inside there was scarcely room to stand and none to sit. A requiem mass was in progress for a fire chief who had last been seen entering one of the Twin Towers.

'Where his coffin should have rested there was only a framed photograph. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Head of New York Fire Department made stirring speeches and then the daughter of the fire chief calmly entered the pulpit and urged us to remember the good things of 9/11 – the selfless and sacrificial help of one individual for another.

'As the service progressed to the mass we were privileged to share the 'Peace' with police and firemen with an overwhelming sense of sharing in their grief. This, above all, is the memory which will remain as long as we live.'

Mr Doughty added: 'Our families expected us to come home immediately but we never felt afraid for our own safety and felt we were sharing in world history as it was made.

'Security at airports was aggressive but it was also noticeable how events brought people closer together – stranger spoke to stranger.'