150 Years of Memories: In 2001, we knew the world had changed forever.

Phone calls woke editors in New Zealand in the small hours. Bleary-eyed they turned on a TV and could hardly believe what they saw. One of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Centre was on fire. An airliner had flown into it.

Herald news editor David Hastings, just home from the night's work, hurriedly put his shoes back on, his eyes fastened to the scene on the screen. Replays showed the plane coming in low over Manhattan in bright morning sunshine, catching the attention of New Yorkers in the street who watched in disbelief as it flew into the building high above them.

By then millions around the world were watching screens. As they watched, a camera trained on the burning tower showed a distant aircraft approaching.

They watched stunned, as that plane flew straight into the second tower.


Reports were coming in from Washington that an airliner had flown into the Pentagon. Another had crashed in Pennsylvania.

New York's mayor Rudy Giuliani came on, calm because he had to be. The United States was under attack. By who or what, nobody knew. How big it might be, how far it might go?

For a terrible hour or so, the world seemed to lose its bearings. The US Air Force was getting fighters up and all civil air craft were ordered to land. But the president, George W. Bush, had been taken into hiding and no word came from the White House.

Only Giuliani was there to give what reassurance he could. As he was speaking, the first tower began to fall, slowly, almost gracefully succumbing to the fire within. It imploded, floor by floor, the weight of each floor crushing the one below.

Then the second tower came down, exactly the same way.

In that terrible hour a small, hastily summoned Herald team put together a special edition of the paper and had it on Auckland's inner city streets by dawn.

More staff were called into work early that morning to produce another edition for midday.

By then the world was regaining some equilibrium. No more commercial airliners had been hi-jacked by suicide pilots and turned into guided missiles laden with people.

The president emerged at last, saying something about evil and vengeance.

Until that day scarcely anyone had heard of al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, or spoke of "nine-eleven".

It was just a year into a new century. The Cold War and most other conflicts of the old century had been settled. That day a medieval religious militancy came out of a clear blue sky to shake the new world and give it a new challenge.