We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world.
CNN Chief International Correspondent
Seven years later, I remember like it was yesterday. I was covering a story in Sierra Leone, the war torn country in western Africa. With no scheduled airlines in or out, it had been incredibly difficult to get there in a series of charted helicopters and small prop planes.
I had literally sat down to my first interview, when patchy and intermittent phone calls started coming in, first from our base in London, then from HQ in Atlanta: a plane had crashed into the WTC….it may have been an accident…still checking…..then a second plane…..and suddenly it was all systems go.
Having barely any communication, no scheduled flights to get out on, and no TV to even see what had happened across the ocean in New York, I quickly powered through a couple more interviews and a stand-up…my mind only half on this story as it churned into gear for what was clearly going to be a huge one.
At last we secured a charter flight, and headed for Ivory Coast to board a flight back to Europe. I was in a black hole, I still had not seen any of it, cell phones did not work and no-one on the ground in Africa could clearly understand what had happened.
Finally at the Ivory Coast airport, the airport manager took me to his home to await my flight and watch his massive screen TV. Finally I saw what the whole world had seen as it unfolded. It was beyond chilling.
Somberly I boarded the Air France flight. What happened next was extraordinary: the captain actually came out of the cockpit, and addressed all the passengers. He explained what had happened in the USA and then he said "I want each of you to look at your neighbor, if you think there is the slightest possibility that something could be wrong, now is the time to tell the crew." It was awful. Imagine all of us looking at each other wondering… "is she a hijacker? Does he look suspicious?"
Finally back in London I secured the first, and exclusive interviews with many world leaders expressing solidarity and resolve with the USA, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharaf. The war on terror was born and I flew off to cover all the angles from Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.
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