Some very fortunate 9/11 diary planning for Falkirk MP

The delegation
The delegation

Images of the 9-11 terror attacks still send shivers down the spine and 10 years on the memories haven’t dwindled the devastating effects etched firmly in our minds.

The sight of those planes hitting both the Twin Towers which caused the awesome structures to crumble in seconds two hours later is a haunting sight no one will ever forget.

Most of us can also remember what we were doing on that dreadful September day in 2001 when almost 3000 people died and the majority of people in Falkirk were glued to their TV screens as the horrors unfolded.

Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty, however, was in Washington that day when another plane hijacked by the al-Qaeda terrorists hit the Pentagon - the heart of the USA’s defence network.

He was leading a delegation of the British American Parliamentary Group in the iconic Capitol building across the Potomac River from the Pentagon, but things could have turned out fatal for the MP if not for some fortunate diary planning.

He said: “We were in the CapitoMarl building looking at the old chamber when we were told to leave. We thought it was a bomb scare.

“Our guide, a state department official who is in the picture on the phone, had heard about the World Trade Centre and as there’s one in Washington too, she wondered aloud why anyone would want to attack that one.

“Then she was told it was the New York one and that’s when we found out the Pentagon was hit too and we saw the smoke coming from it in the distance just across the river.

“I had my camera in my bag but other people were told to leave theirs behind and I was the only one with a camera. I tried to take a picture of the Pentagon to identify the place in time.

“I clicked the shutter but just got fuzz and another one was exactly the same. My camera lens had shattered into a thousand pieces and I still don’t know how it happened to this day. It is very strange.

“People who had left their cameras behind in the building never got theirs back either. Very strange.”

Mr Connarty and the rest of his delegation were ushered to a hotel where angry Americans were saying: “Let’s nuke the Arabs”.

The next day the delegation visited Congress where each Senator was given one minute to reflect their thoughts and one brave Senator went against the vitriol to ask, “What have we done in the Middle East to make these people hate us so much?”.

Mr Connarty was also flown home over Ground Zero in New York. He added: “We were flown from a Us Airforce base on a Hercules full of generals from Europe. It was the only one allowed to fly over Ground Zero. Looking down at the collapsed, burning buildings was quite harrowing.

“I always recall that our programme for September 12 said, ‘09.00: Visit Pentagon’ and being thankful we weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.”