IN his last call to his family, Brit Geoff Campbell told them he was excited to be working in New York and looking forward to a “freebie lunch” at the World Trade Center.
Days later, the 31-year-old from Northampton was killed when a plane smashed into the Center’s North Tower in the first of the horrific 9/11 aanvalle which claimed 2,996 lewens, beseer 6,000 and devastated thousands more.
In the deadliest terrorist attack in history – op September 11, 2001 – two jets hijacked by Al-Quada terrorists flew into New York’s Twin Towers, another into the Pentagon and a fourth was brought down by brave passengers, who overcame the terrorists and prevented a hit on Washington’s Capitol Hill.
Nou, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attack, survivors and grieving families have revealed their moving stories in the BBC2 documentary, Surviving 9/11 – which airs on Monday night.
British artist Vanessa Lawrence recalls her dramatic escape from the 91st floor and Lauren Manning, who miraculously survived with 80 percent burns, reveals how she has fought back to health and the devastating effect her injuries had on son Tyler.
New York firefighter Bill Spade also recalls the moment he thought he would not make it out alive and his agony at losing close colleagues in the attack – which claimed 340 firefighters and 72 policemen.
Geoff, who had been working with press agency Reuters in New York, was so badly burnt that the only remains returned to the family were a fragment of his collarbone, some scalp, hair and parts of his jaw.
“The whole world watched Geoff being killed,” says dad Malcolm, who was climbing in Snowdonia when he heard about his son’s death.
“He may have been killed outright, he may have been severely injured but everyone sees it and that was the point he was killed.
“It’s been a very strange and difficult twenty years.”
Mees gelees in News
Seconds from death as first plane hits
By 26, and straight out of art school, Manchester-born Vanessa Lawrence was thrilled to be offered a studio at the top of one of New York’s most famous landmarks.
“I loved that whole experience of being that high up," sy sê.
“I’d often go up at sunrise and because of the slats at the windows, you had this big fan of red, yellows and oranges fanning out across the floor, which was amazing.”
On the morning of September 9, 2001, Vanessa got to the studio before 6am and, after three hours working on her sunrise painting, decided to take a break.
It was a decision that saved her life by a split second. As she stepped out of the lift on her return to the 91st floor, die first plane ploughed into the North Tower, taking out floors 93 aan 99.
“The second I stepped out of the elevator, the building shook and smoke and debris came blasting down the corridor," sy sê.
“The elevator became a fireball and dropped.
“If I hadn’t gone down to the lobby, I would have seen the plane coming towards me because I was right at that window, looking at the direction it was coming.”
Dazed, Vanessa made her way down the 91 flights of stairs to try to exit the building.
“I remember the lights were all out so they were very dark," sy sê.
“The sprinklers were on. It felt like really small, small space. There’d be certain points that panic would kick in and you suddenly realise that you don’t know what’s going on.”
Vanessa was met by heroic firefighters who calmly helped her, and many others, to safety.
“I still remember so vividly that point of turning around the last stairwell and seeing a flash of light coming in because you’d now finally made it out,” sy sê.
Caught in fireball and left with 80 per cent burns
Lauren Manning, a data manager at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald and mum to baby Tyler, was in the lobby of the building.
She vividly recalls walking through the revolving door and smiling at two women who were chatting and laughing in the lobby, before turning towards the lifts.
“There was an extraordinarily loud, deurboor, whistling sound,” says Lauren, nou 51.
“The explosion that had pummelled down those elevators blew out and enveloped everything and everyone in its path. And I was in its path.
“I looked over to where the two women were and they were laying on the ground, on fire. Like them, I was on fire.”
Minutes after Lauren was caught in the explosion, she looked up and saw a second plane hit the South Tower.
“I could see the flames, but most of all, I could feel them burrowing deeper and deeper through my clothes and through my skin.
“I began to feel my consciousness slipping away and I screamed to my son, Tyler, ‘I can’t leave you now. I won’t leave you now.’”
I could feel the flames burrowing deeper and deeper through my clothes and through my skin
Lauren was left with third and fourth degree burns on 82.5 per cent of her body and spent three months in intensive care, learning to move again with open wounds that took over a year to heal.
Disturbing footage of Lauren, with raw seared skin and hair burned away, is watched by her son Tyler – nou 20 – who is visibly upset.
Although he was too young to remember the attacks, he admits the injuries suffered by his mum have had a profound affect on him mentally, leaving him with PTSD and bouts of anger.
Tragies, Lauren suggests it might have been easier on her son if she had perished in the flames.
“I guess my presence is sometimes a trigger," sy sê. “There’s anger about ‘why were you there? How could you not understand what was happening? Why are you the mother that looks like this? Why didn’t you die that day? Maybe you should have. It would’ve just been easier for us.’”
But Lauren says she is “grateful” to be alive and thousands were not so lucky.
Body parts in the street and workers jumping to their deaths
The programme hears from Nancy Suhr, whose husband Danny was killed when a woman fell from the collapsing South Tower and landed on him, breaking his neck, and the mother of Leroy Homer, the pilot of the fourth United Airlines plane, Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
Firefighter Bill Spade fights tears as he recalls driving towards the Twin Towers after the alarm was raised.
“There was body parts everywhere, just thrown about the street," hy sê.
“At first I tried to drive around them and it was just impossible and I remember saying a prayer, I said ‘Please forgive me.’
When he got closer, hy sê: “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Bodies were dropping right in front of us. One lady coming down screaming, hitting the ground and then there was really nothing left.
“I remember a man and woman jumping, hugging each other and they still had their arms around each other as they landed and that’s the way it remained.
“The colour of someone’s skin, their body colour was taken right out of them and they were like ash and greyish blue.”
While many civilians died in the explosions caused by the two planes at the towers, or fell to their deaths trying to escape the building, many more, including the majority of the firefighters, were killed by the collapse of the South Tower.
Bill, who had been leading office workers to safety, says he was trying to open a blocked door when he heard the “loudest noise you’ve ever heard in your life… like eight subway trains with screeching brakes” as twisted metal, glass and concrete came crashing down.
“I got blown about 40 voete. But I crawled into a window and went under a desk. I got in to a ball, I felt so vulnerable as I was getting buried.
“The image of my sons – seven and two months – flashed in front of me. And when the image of my younger son flashed in front of me, I said ‘Man, you’ll never know your dad’. Now I was sure I was never going to see him again.”
Funerals every day
Bill miraculously survived but the police officer he had been chatting to minutes before – who also had two young sons – was doodgemaak, along with his entire firefighting team.
“There was twelve of us working that day, and I was the only one to live, the only one to come home," hy sê.
Bill says he ended up attending so many funerals over the next eleven weeks, it added to his trauma.
“It was just so many guys," hy sê. “I realised it wasn’t healthy for me, so I just was going to one a day.”
Bill was left with severe breathing difficulties caused by inhalation of smoke and dust, and he was convinced he would die within two years.
“Every day that goes by now is good," hy sê. “My two boys are doing great. I’m glad I got to experience these last twenty years. En, if I wake up tomorrow, it’ll be good again.”
Vanessa managed to escape with minor injuries but in the days that followed, her mental health deteriorated and she decided to leave New York.
“I wanted to stay there more than ever," sy sê. “But I got to a point that I couldn’t handle the way I was feeling and the fear that I had, the panics, the noises and sounds and smells.”
Two decades on, says the trauma of those terrible events have left deep psychological scars.
“It’s almost got worse, ek dink,” says the 46-year-old, who now lives in Ayrshire, Skotland.
“I go into a mode of completely irrational thinking. This fear and panic comes over me, knowing that just like that, something can happen.
“There always that question of ‘why did I make it out? Why did I escape?’ It’s become a huge part of who I am.”
Malcolm was at the summit of Rhinog Fawr mountain when he heard the news of the attack.
He has revisited the spot every year since, to mark the anniversary of Geoff’s death.
“When the first anniversary came around in 2002, it seemed absolutely perfectly natural to me to go back to the Rhinogs where I was when the attack happened," hy sê.
“It’s a beautiful area and I’ve been back every year since as it’s absolutely remote and I don’t see anybody at all. I just like to remember what happened and remember Geoff just quietly by myself.
“There’s a gap in the family. Every day there’s a gap. It doesn’t quite work as well as it did before. Geoff was the fulcrum of the family, the middle of three boys, and the effect on the family was disastrous.”
Surviving 9/11 airs on at 9pm on Monday on BBC2