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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
Witnesses recall terror of attack
Smoke obscures Nrew York skyline
The famous twin towers were destroyed
Eye witnesses have been telling harrowing stories of how they watched two planes crash into the World Trade Center in New York, in the worst terrorist attack in America's history.

Northern Ireland man Gary McKendry, originally from Ballyclare, County Antrim, is a film director living in Manhattan.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday, he said he was just 15 blocks away from the twin towers of the World Trade Center, when they collapsed.

Another plane smashed into the Pentagon, striking at the heart of the US military machine in Washington DC.

"It was just absolutely unbelievable. 2,000 people had been evacuated from the building and were just standing there," said Mr McKendry.

Everyone was relatively controlled but everybody was afraid a plane or a missile could hit our building too

Michael McBride

"Two thousand people went: "Oh no, oh no," because you could see it slowly falling into the street and 2,000 people began crying."

Michael McBride, a computer programmer from Donegal, works in a 38 floor skyscraper in Manhattan.

The building was evacuated after the second plane struck the World Trade Centre, just a quarter of a mile away.

"It was more shock than panic, everybody got out of the building but there was no pushing or tumbling or anything," he said.

"Everyone was relatively controlled but everybody was afraid a plane or a missile could hit our building too because it would have been probably one of the biggest left standing down around that area. It was very scary."

Smoke billows from the Pentagon
The Pentagon is the heart of America's defence machine

Meanwhile, passengers from a jumbo jet en route from London to Seattle spent Tuesday night in hotels in Northern Ireland after their flight was diverted to Belfast following the terrorist attacks.

The travellers watched the images being broadcast with a mixture of horror and disbelief.

"Your first reaction is that this must be some kind of Hollywood film," said Adam Loving.

"Not being present there I just can't understand it, the only way your brain can process it is to imagine all the movies you see of New York being destroyed it just seems completely unreal to me."

"I am just sick to my stomach at the devastation of human lives and I think the anger will come later, but right now I am just sick," said Gwen Turbyfield.

'Unyielding anger'

US President George W Bush has vowed to hunt down those responsible for the terrorist attacks which have stunned the United States and the world.

In a live television address, he said the American people were in a state of disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet unyielding anger.

Mr Bush also said thousands of people may have died in the attacks.

Rescue teams in New York and Washington have been working through the night, searching for any survivors.

I am just sick to my stomach at the devastation of human lives and I think the anger will come later, but right now I am just sick

Gwen Turbyfield

President Bush's special adviser on Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, said he would continue his visit to Belfast despite the attacks in the US.

He said what had happened was an attack on civilized society.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern extended his sympathy to the American people, while Irish President Mary McAleese said her heart went out to the victims and their families.

SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon said the implications of the attacks were clear.

All transatlantic flights from the Republic of Ireland have been recalled or diverted.

Ulster unionist leader David Trimble described the attacks in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC and Pittsburgh as "utterly appalling".

In a statement, the leaders of Ireland's four main churches expressed their "shock and abhorrence" at the attacks.

Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

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