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  • I sat in the staff canteen one lunch time and overheard a reservationist saying, "I would never waste my time and go to Switchboard. I mean what do they do? They just answer and transfer calls."

    I never turned around. I just listened to the drivel exchanged. I know better.

    I'll never forget that fateful day. Tuesday 11th September 2001.

    Just after 09.00, one of my colleagues walked past and poked her head in the Telephone Room, "Have you heard what's happened?" We shook our heads in the negative. "A pilot was flying too low and crashed into the World Trade Centre. Terrible accident." We did not really react because what's not devastating in the news these days.

    I received the first call. There was a corporate breakfast function that had started in one of the function rooms and a female caller, asked to be connected through to one of the attendees, ".... Something TERRIBLE has happened in New York!" Was all that she repeated. I tried earnestly to get through to the Head Waiter for I could hear the fright in her voice. I would learn later that one of their offices was in the North Tower.

    I have never experienced anything like that. All of a sudden, the consoles lit up and there were more calls coming through to speak to guests than ever before. All the alarm lights turned red to notify us that calls were queuing more than three rings. The sudden influx was too much and the boards crashed, temporarily.

    One operator got the news up and was giving the rest of us a live update so we could inform callers of anything, anything at all.

    A second plane was deliberately flown into the South Tower.

    This was no accident. The first wasn't either. The realisation was such a, a; I can't even find the word. I was so scared because I was in a vulnerable country. I felt vulnerable. I was in an iconic hotel. What if this was just the beginning? Are we a target too?

    The calls never stopped, the callers never stopped screaming and crying and screaming and they wouldn't hang up. I could not get them to hang up. Please hang up. I don't know how to help your son who is in the North Tower.

    "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." I repeated. You can't get through to him because the telephone masts at the top were destroyed, it does not mean he is gone. You have to have hope. Please. Please. Please. There are others trying to call. I must let you go. I have your room number. I promise you, I will keep trying. Yes I have his number. I promise you."

    I called every telephone number I was given that day.

    Every single one.

    There were hundreds and we tried. One operator had to leave the room because she was in such an emotional state. I don't know how we held on.

    No one answered.....
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