Alex Phillips: Will we ever win the fight against terrorism?
Alex Phillips recites the harrowing eyewitness accounts of those caught up in the 9/11 terror attack, 20 years on
Alex Phillips recites the harrowing eyewitness accounts of those caught up in the 9/11 terror attack, 20 years on.
"I heard a sound that today, I cannot remember. It was so powerful, such a huge sound that I blocked it. It scared me to death, and I cannot bring it back to consciousness. And when I said, darkness, what was a beautiful day became darker than night.
"You couldn't see anymore. Even more striking, there was no more sound. Sound didn't go through anymore because the air was so thick that it wasn't vibrating anymore. So after this unbelievable sound of the building collapsing, everything in a few seconds turned to be darker than night with no sound, and you couldn't breathe. I was convinced I was dead, because it's so big that your brain cannot process something like this.
"You could see Manhattan and then not see Manhattan, and all of a sudden I looked up and there was just this explosion of confetti in the air. And I thought that was the strangest sight I had ever seen.
"I saw what I can only describe as almost like a tornado hurtling at me. Just this cloud of dust that had to be over 100 feet in the air, and it was literally circling, and it was just bearing down. I'd never seen anything like that and anything move as fast as that, and I turned around and I yelled, 'Run'.
"I remember making it through the cloud, and I remember walking, trying to walk through this. The amount of debris, it's unfathomable. And I remember drawing a line in the middle of my brain and putting those that I thought were dead on one side and those that I thought had a chance on the other.
"All of a sudden, I heard what I can only describe as a freight train coming at me out of the sky. That was the North Tower coming down. That was the floors pancaking one on top of the other. Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. We got buried under more rubble, and I remember saying to myself, you can't be lucky enough to survive it twice. And I started to pray. When the thing settled down and the rubble stopped piling up on top of us, I was still alive.
"We saw people leaping from the windows and it was surreal to see how long it took them to fall. I remember thinking how horrible it must be up there if the better choice is to jump to your death. I’m not sure how long I had stood there, but I was just thinking to myself, 'How are they going to put these fires out, they’re so high up and so huge?'
"When I heard the most almighty sound I’ve ever heard. It was a shrieking, tearing type of groan. Almost like God had grabbed a handful of steel H beams and ripped them in two.
"People were throwing whatever they could out of the windows - tables, water coolers - to break the glass and get air. I could see them hanging out of windows, then to my horror I realised people were beginning to jump to their death rather than being burned alive. I saw what I'm pretty sure was a policeman killed by a person who fell on him."
Those are eyewitness accounts from 9/11. It is hard to imagine that 20 years on, those that abetted the perpetrators have now claimed victory over America in Afghanistan.
It is hard to conceive that after two decades of trying to put a stopper on the cankerous contagion of terrorism in the Middle East, the plug has once again been pulled and tens of thousands of jihadis have flooded into region.
A cocktail of extremists from a toxic tapestry of terrorist organisations. How long before they strike again? Today, we really need to talk about terrorism.