Kiwis remember 'day from hell'

By Hayden Donnell

On September 11, 2001, Melissa Jenner was running late for work when a plane slammed into her 104th floor office at the World Trade Centre.

She watched from the ground as the building she had been trying to get to just minutes ago burst into flames with many of her colleagues trapped inside.

In the terrifying hours that followed, she ran 20 blocks to phone her brother Mark Jenner in New Zealand to tell him she was okay.

It was a day that placed the Jenners among the thousands whose lives were shaped forever by the events of what has become known simply as 9/11.

At the 10th anniversary of the attacks, many New Zealanders have shared their memories of how they were impacted with nzherald.co.nz.

They include Dunedin native Storm Swain, who vividly remembers walking to a meeting at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan at 8:46am on 9/11.

As the towers came down nearby, she desperately tried to get in touch with a friend who worked at the World Trade Centre.

She had run from the collapsing South Tower after witnessing the first plane crash into the North Tower and did not call him until late that afternoon.

Ms Swain that day joined the trained clergy who were responding to the tragedy.

"It was a privilege to serve in the face of such disaster - to see how the best in us, can respond to transform the worst in us."

For Ralph Beaven, September 11 was the day he lost his brother.

Alan Beaven, a 48-year-old environment lawyer, died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Pittsburgh after being hijacked by terrorists.

He was the only New Zealander killed in the September 11 attacks.

Mr Beaven remembers the exact moment he learned what had happened.

"We were holidaying in Fiji and were having brunch when we noticed a group of people milling around the TV screen.

"I thought it was a sporting game they were watching. But they were relaying the places that had been hit. Of course, at the time we never knew Alan was on board."

Whangarei residents David and Nancy George were due to back to the US from their New Zealand holiday on the afternoon of September 11.

They spent the next two weeks surrounding by "caring Kiwis" as they waited for flights back to their US home to resume.

The kindness and generosity they were shown as they watched the horrifying attacks unfold impressed them so much they decided to make New Zealand their permanent home.

"We decided that day to begin the NZ immigration process which we completed on September 11, 2002. Thank you New Zealand." Mr George said.

Aucklander Mary Atkinson was in mid-town New York when the attacks happened.

She said the day was filled with confusion, reports of other terrorist strikes and calls for emergency services to report for duty immediately.

"Some people were saying to stay away from the Empire State Building, because it would be next. It felt apocalyptic. As a New Zealander, I wondered if I would see my family again. The airports were closed, and so I couldn't leave. It was an extremely lonely and frightening time to be on my own in an unfamiliar city."

New Yorker Kevin Hughes was at work at a school when news of the attacks filtered through. The next hours were spent in a blur of panic and confusion.

The attacks have left a permanent mark on him.

"For years after September 11th I realised that there was a terrorised victim inside me. It only took for a plane to be flying lower than usual for me to look up and wonder...

"Everything changed that day - the day from hell."

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