Eleven Nine One

This photograph was taken ten years ago today.


That's me there, on the right. I'm sat in the reception of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, where myself and a handful of colleagues were visiting to check it out as a potential conference venue. We'd already seen the towers collapse on the television and before that … I may have seen the plane strike the second tower, live. I can't say for certain, which is odd. Live footage and recorded footage were interspersed, and it was all I could do to keep up. Time has jumbled the images together. My colleague on the left, a dutch girl called Carole Somethingorother, had a small radio, so we listened to the surreal news reports whenever we had a chance.

It was quite sunny, as I recall. I'm wearing what was my favourite green shirt and some awful, awful shoes. My hair is shocking. This moment was a brief respite from the tour of the University – we continued to look around and ask all the usual questions about room capacities and refreshments facilities, knowing that the answers meant absolutely nothing at all. This was our own personal The Pet Goat – we continued with trivial matters because everything else had stopped making sense.

What I recall from looking at that picture is the feeling of it happening. Not the way we look back at it now, as a horrific yet contained, defined event. Right there, in that moment, we had no idea if it was going to be a few planes or a thousand planes. On that day it was impossible to fathom if this was it, some of it, the start of it, what. Was London next? Edinburgh? Everywhere?

All we could do was listen to the end of the world as it crackled through cheap headphones.