9/11: The day I almost died
9 September 2001: took a trip downtown to one of my favourite buildings. Marvelled again at the view from the top of South Tower, which first captivated me as a boy.
10 September 2001: traveling by train to DC, I felt compelled to snap many pictures of the twin towers as we passed through the New Jersey Medoowlands. The towers were striking, shimmered majestically across the Hudson.
11 September 2001: walking across The Mall to the Washington Monument, I noticed it was very quiet. Several police cars approached, and I was told to leave the area. Back at my hotel it was clear I needed to call home. To the south west smoke was visible on the skyline, rising from the wreckage of flight AA77.
Six weeks earlier, at a travel agency in Oxford, I was hurriedly booking a round the world air ticket. Aged 23, I'd recently graduated and landed a job at management consultancy McKinsey, pocketing a handsome signing bonus. The reward to myself was the longest, most exotic trip I could imagine. A clear route had formed: US, Australia, South East Asia, an extended stay in China, then Japan. In the US I wanted to revisit New York, quickly see DC, then spend time with friends in San Francisco. Exact dates were quickly decided on the spot, based on availability. I was disappointed not to be able to leave the East Coast earlier.
12 September 2001: didn't use my ticket for flight AA77 that day. No commercial flights operated for several days, but flight AA77 never flew again.
Stranded in DC, I went back to the Mall. Surprisingly, the White House was open to visitors with little security. Taking in the view from the Diplomatic Room, I listened as a uniformed Secret Service officer described a flight passing unusually low the previous day.
I could have easily booked my flight a day earlier. Today my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones ten years ago.
Posted at 13:12 BST, 11th September 2011.
Last changed at 13:50 BST, 11th September 2011.