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September 11th, ten years on

(a personal post by Chris Reed)

Every generation has its defining moments. I thought the death of Princess Diana would be mine. But it wasn’t.

I first heard that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers during lunch in the BBC canteen. One of my Press Office colleagues received a text. We thought it was a joke at first, a ploy to get us to return to work before our hour was up. The next text confirmed that it wasn’t.

We rushed back to room 2000, joining 20 or so others watching a bank of 16 or so TVs as pretty much one by one they started showing live coverage of the terrible events unfolding in New York. I was media relations manager for the BBC at the time, looking after BBC News in particular.

My first instinct was to check my New York-based brother in law was OK. By an incredible quirk of fate (or perhaps the credibility of dialing from the BBC Switchboard), I got through to his mobile straight away. He had been turfed off a subway train one stop away from the World Trades Centre (he worked next door), and was safe. I told him to head home, and immediately phoned his wife in Manhattan, who was blissfully unaware of what was unfolding, but grateful he was safe.

And then to work. A veritable hands on lesson crisis communications, working alongside some extremely talented people – in particular Jon Steel, Mark Ogle and Donald Steel.

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