'It Was Just an Unreal, Horrific Event. like the Truman Show, Something That Was Just Inconceivable' Ten Years Ago Tomorrow, the World Watched in Horror as Terrorists Wrought Their Deadly Carnage on the US. on the Eve of the Landmark Anniversary Graham Henry Speaks to the Stephen Evans, the Welshman Who Became the Face of the BBC's Stateside Coverage of the 9/11 Attacks

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 10, 2011 | Go to article overview

'It Was Just an Unreal, Horrific Event. like the Truman Show, Something That Was Just Inconceivable' Ten Years Ago Tomorrow, the World Watched in Horror as Terrorists Wrought Their Deadly Carnage on the US. on the Eve of the Landmark Anniversary Graham Henry Speaks to the Stephen Evans, the Welshman Who Became the Face of the BBC's Stateside Coverage of the 9/11 Attacks


Byline: Graham Henry

* DECADE ago, the unthinkable happened. In the most economically developed country in the world, in one of the most open democratic societies in the globe, a nation and way of life was violated on an unprecedented scale.

As planes were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, horrified residents of New York City looked on as nightmarish images of people jumping from the stricken buildings, and images of the towers eventually collapsing to the ground, were beamed around the world.

Nearly 3,000 people died in atrocities that included four airliners full of people, and two towers packed with city centre workers, families and rescue workers.

Repercussions were profound not only for the US, but for the rest of the world.

The event triggered a 10-year conflict in Afghanistan, and formed the controversial basis for the Iraq war, as well as an exhaustive search for the man that perpetrated the atrocity - Osama Bin Laden - culminating in his death in May this year.

His death was greeted by images of delirious Americans taking to the streets, decked in the Stars and Stripes, celebrating retribution for the man who started it all.

Back on September 11, 2001, meanwhile, on the ground floor of the south tower, was Cardiff-born BBC journalist Stephen Evans. He was working as the corporation's business and economics correspondent in the US at the time, having been posted there in May that year.

Now working as the BBC's Berlin correspondent, Mr Evans - who lived in Bridgend - appears to have mixed feelings of regret, and a matter-of-fact attitude to his own lucky escape.

The Welshman was by no means the only Briton on the scene, but he was one of the first that brought an immediacy of the events to a global audience with live reports from across from Ground Zero even as the planes crashed into the buildings behind him.

"Thinking back on it, I don't think in truth I would've seen anything that was not seen at home in television," the 55-year-old says. "I don't think I had a particularly big role to play, I was there, I covered it, that was it.

"I don't even think there was a great deal of emotion at the time, when I think back. It was so unreal, very, very unreal. I didn't see anyone jump, for example, I wasn't affected in a bad way afterwards - perhaps because I didn't see that."

Recalling how events unfolded, he added: "I was in the ground floor of the south tower when the first plane hit.

"I was going to cover a meeting which I think started at 9.30am - and I was just sitting in an armchair on the ground floor foyer.

"And when the plane hit, I remember the sound...it was like a very big skip of concrete was dropped from a great height, and there was this almighty smash.

"But I was pretty calm at the time. I walked out and went to a newsagents across the road to use the phone. I am sure there was a sense of bewilderment.

"You could sense panic with people when the first [plane] hit, and I suppose there would've been a sense of panic when people started jumping."

After the first plane hit, Mr Evans was interviewed live on the BBC from the scene, using a phone in a newsagents across the street from the Twin Towers, before the second plane ploughed into the south tower that he had just left.

After being ushered out of the shop, Mr Evans set about negotiating the clogged and panicked streets of New York in an attempt to reach his office to cover the event further, and shared a car ride with a Chinese-American woman in labour.

"I can remember going away from the thing with a Chinese-American woman, sharing a car going to a hospital," he says.

"She was about to give birth. We were listening to the radio, trying to make sense of it, the two of us, her primary concerns about what was happening to her and this incomprehensible event which we have just left.

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'It Was Just an Unreal, Horrific Event. like the Truman Show, Something That Was Just Inconceivable' Ten Years Ago Tomorrow, the World Watched in Horror as Terrorists Wrought Their Deadly Carnage on the US. on the Eve of the Landmark Anniversary Graham Henry Speaks to the Stephen Evans, the Welshman Who Became the Face of the BBC's Stateside Coverage of the 9/11 Attacks
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