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  • I was working in the docklands on a little building on stilts in the water at Canary Wharf. It was a 24hr call centre that employed actors and performers to take calls for blue chip companies. I was working a late shift so hadn't been there long that day when news started to filter through.

    Via phone calls and email we began to hear of diverted flights and an explosion in NYC. Our company directors brought out the nightshift TV and put it on. People were frightened for friends on flights in the US but unable to make contact. Then the television began an image sequence that would play incessantly, on our screens and in our heads, through the coming weeks.

    We were below Canary Wharf tower, at that point the highest building in the country, the hub of the UK financial district towers. With congested and diverted air traffic unable to land while the world worked out it’s confusion over what to do, planes for City Airport circled above. We didn't know whether the UK or our tower could be next on an attack list. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time.

    Canary Wharf was evacuated. Transport links closed. Traffic was diverted off roads outside. Offices emptied and suits walked in their hundreds down the middle of empty streets to get to some route home. I went outside with my colleagues and watched the exodus. I decided I was going nowhere.

    The office phones fell silent as the public stopped caring about their daily business. Most mobile networks were down. Mine worked, my mother, driving a London bus had been diverted in her part of town and was fine. Our director defended us to police and building managers who strongly suggested we leave like the rest. Many of us remained. In the eerie, empty wharf we were the bolshy actors, refusing to be uprooted.

    Planes flew past the tower into a re-opened city airport until my shift ended. For a while, in the early afternoon we stood at the glass wall of the office watching them. Flippant people, giddy with adrenaline, offended the worried ones with jokes, some, like me, were just blank of emotion. I’d missed bombs by mere minutes when I’d worked in the city, stepped over the pavement fissures and blown out office windows of the aftermath. I’d been stuck in more bomb scares than I could count, frustrated by delays, but never scared and I was not scared now. I had never seen anything like this though and it chilled me.

    Finally I gave the nightshift guy a farewell hug and made my way home on the now re-opened tube and train systems. London was business as usual. It would be a while I knew, before New York and the other US sites hit would feel the same.
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