My Big Mouth: 9/11 ten years on


Reporter Joel Durston takes a look at how the events of 9/11 impacted South West Londoners.


By Joel Durston

Tuesday the 11th of September 2001 started off as just any ordinary working day, for myself and, more importantly, for the world.

The events of the day and their effects, however, have reverberated around the world, with profound personal and political impacts. It is truly one of those where were you events.

I remember hearing about the event in my living room, while watching MTV. The producers decided that the event was of such importance that they interrupted the sights and sounds of bling and nubile young women which proliferates on the channel (indeed, a culture that many commentators have claimed the attackers were largely railing against).

SW Londoner took to the streets of Richmond, Chelsea, Kingston, Hammersmith, Fulham, Wandsworth and Merton to investigate people’s whereabouts when they first heard about 9/11, and their reactions to it.

Unsurprisingly, many of those interviewed said they first heard about 9/11 through the news, especially the BBC. This highlights an interesting change from today’s time, with so many different news channels and news often broken by ‘ordinary people’ on social media and the blogosphere.

Colin Derwin, 66, claimed: “I was at work and rushed round to the local pub because someone told me what was happening, so I actually watched the second plane going in.

“First of all it looked like a disaster movie and then you realise that it isn’t. I must be honest, when I saw the towers coming down I felt really sick.”

Similarly, Jim, interviewed in Merton, was horrified by the images coming from TV screens: “I was visiting Harley Street, passed a television shop and glanced at one of the windows.

“I saw this one tower burning, but I didn’t think that it was real. I thought it was a video game…but then people started to congregate and I went into the shop and asked if this was live and where it was coming from. I was told it was true. 

“I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it and the terrible thing about it was that I can still see it and when I pass a television shop I always look at the screens, I don’t know why.  I wished I’d never seen it.”

People reported hearing about the disaster in a multitude of places, proving that the impact of the tragedy was such that it permeated almost all walks of life.

One interviewee even claimed that he heard about the collapse of the Twin Towers in prison. John Jacobs, 62, stated: “I was in prison, where I did 22-and-a-half years. I switched the TV on in the morning and it was all over the news; I couldn’t believe it!”

Like a few of the people we spoke to, John had relatives near the event at the time, bringing up the ‘small world’ cliché which we has largely become an accurate description of the increasingly inter-connected, post-9/11 world.

He added: “I had relatives that were over there on holiday, so I was just panicking…trying to phone…trying to phone…holding my breath. They were OK., though.”

South West Londoners were universally ‘shocked’, ‘stunned’, ‘saddened’ (one to the point of tears) and even ‘sickened’ by the event.

We are still dealing with the ramifications of the attacks which evidently still burn bright in the minds of billions across the world.


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