I had just finished an 8-2 shift and was taking a slow walk home when one of my regular customers pulled up. As she was heading in the direction of Hanley she asked me if I fancied a lift and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted. As she was driving she told me a couple of jets had been hijacked in America. So I phoned forward to home to tell CBC to put News 24 on.
When I got in I wasn't at all prepared for what the telly was showing me. Vast plumes of smoke were streaming out of jagged holes punched in the sides of the Twin Towers. The clipped efficient tones of Jane Hill informed us what had happened, following it up with footage of the second plane striking the south tower of the World Trade Centre. I remember getting online and trying to access news websites on my rusty dial up connection - but there was no chance. BBC, ITN and even Ananova were impossible to load. Shortly after this the BBC broadcast footage of smoke billowing out of the side of the Pentagon.
I can remember we were both stunned. We watched as it all unfolded on TV - the collapse of the towers, Bush being informed, Blair's first statement, speculation about who was responsible. I was able to get onto the UK Left Network and wrote a brief post breaking the news to the list. Perversely, thanks to some of the more cracked elements of the far left having a presence, it was only three hours after my post that the first conspiracy theory did the rounds and some started lauding the attacks as an anti-imperialist action against the USA that should be welcomed.
Nevertheless there was a list consensus the USA and UK would use September 11th as a pretext to erode existing civil liberties and to launch wars against troublesome Middle Eastern regimes. Predictions that have unfortunately come to pass.
As the day wore on into evening and night our TV remained on. I remember hearing unconfirmed reports a fourth jet had been destroyed, that coordinated truck bomb attacks against government targets were feared and lastly, before we headed to bed, news of missile strikes on unspecified positions in Afghanistan.
Over the next few days there were discussions at work and furious debates on the far left about who was responsible, why it was done and what would an appropriate response be. Anti-imperialism and building an anti-war movement were at the forefront.
Looking back at it now, personally speaking the tragedy did not affect me politically beyond bringing into sharp relief some of the arguments I'd been convinced of years previously. Politically and culturally as defining a moment it was, had the attacks not happened I doubt the early 21st century would have been much different. The erosion of civil liberties has been a long term tendency going right back to Thatcher in the 1980s. Afghanistan and Iraq were already in the crosshairs of the Bush presidency. The September 11th attacks acted as a catalyst, speeding up the implementation of existing domestic and foreign policy objectives.
As I said, everyone has a September 11th story. Where were you when you heard about it? What did you do? Has it affected your politics? Let's hear what Completely Sectarian, Everyone's Favourite Comrade, Dave's Part, Enemies of Reason, HarpyMarx, The Daily (Maybe), HC Leftie, Shiraz Socialist, Splintered Sunrise, Stroppyblog and Though Cowards Flinch have to say.