Where were you on 9/11?


I got more sights of this lovely view from the top of Mont Royal in central Montreal in September 2001 than I had bargained for. At least five days worth in fact, for I was one of the thousands of people stranded somewhere they weren’t meant to be in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.


Flightglobal’s Stuart Clarke has asked the team to recall where they were on that fateful day. He will be collecting these stories for our own coverage of 9/11: a decade later.

For my part, I was attending the 2001 Airports Council International World Assembly in Montreal – the big annual gathering of airport leaders. It was the first day and David Plavin, the ex-head of New York’s airport system and the president of ACI, was addressing the audience.

David stopped the meeting with the announcement that there was a situation in New York. Nobody initially knew what was going on, but it was clearly big and bad.

Clearly shaken, David then announced that a jet had been flown in one of the Twin Towers. This charming man knew some of his former colleagues from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which had an office in the Towers, could be in there….. Nobody could believe it.

Live pictures from New York and then Washington were played on the big screen in the conference room. Proceedings were stopped. Hardly anyone moved. We just watched in awe and disbelief as the morning unfolded.

Like many others stranded in Canada it was tough to get home. The conference agenda was forgotten.

Flights via the US were out. I had flown in via Chicago and so had to look for a direct route. Flights from Canada to the UK began again a couple of days after 9/11 but it took another few days to secure a seat. Many queued for hours at the Air Canada ticket office in Montreal to get a seat.

Some of those going back to the USA or to western Canada bought cars, hired cars or took coaches and trains - any overland way to get home.

So this view from Mont Royal, which is a lovely walk or run, became familiar during my extended stay in Montreal, but not for the right reasons.


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