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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
A day of remembrance
George Square, Glasgow
Thousands gathered at George Square in Glasgow
As silence fell across Europe, 4,000 people attended a service in George Square in Glasgow to remember the thousands of victims of the terrorist attacks in America.

Paul Coffey tells BBC News Online Scotland why he and so many others gathered to pay their respects.

It started on Tuesday afternoon during a meeting at an office somewhere in Scotland.

We were there to discuss something which was, professionally at least, important - but that all changed.

A colleague walked into the office and said: "You'll never believe this, but a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center."

The American flag is carried in Glasgow
The American flag is carried in Glasgow
We gathered round the television as another passenger plane careered into the second tower, then the Pentagon was hit.

And we watched, in undisguised horror, as 110 storeys of one of man's greatest engineering achievements returned to the dust it once was.

It was too much to watch the second tower succumb.

We had watched the world change. I phoned my brother, who was on location making a film, and told him the news. The silence was deafening.

Through the hours and days since that followed, the small inconsequential areas of life have assumed their rightful place.

Since that afternoon, we have heard the many stories of heroism that resulted from that most despicable of human acts.


There are other places I could be right now, but this seems the right place to be.

The dust has cleared, the search continues for the victims, but for the world there is still no real explanation.

Why would anyone want to do this?

No matter the consequences that will result from this act, we must find a way of accepting and dealing with it.

And so, three days after the event and with the incident still fresh in our collective mind, I stood in a place with many others.

George Square in Glasgow has been the scene of many a gathering in the past, but none so sad as the one which was held on Friday.

No need to ask

The European Union had declared that three minutes of silence would be observed at 1100 BST.

Frankly, they did not need to ask us. We would have been here anyway.

I do not know the people standing next to me, nor do I need to.

Their eyes tell me why they are here, and I think mine do too.

There are other places I could be right now, but this seems the right place to be.

World Trade Center on fire
The World Trade Center was destroyed
As a local community which is part of an ever larger one, we need to be able to stand together and pray for those whose only crime was to do what we do every day.

As we stand, heads bowed, I know there are many others in this country, if not the world, doing the same thing.

It may have happened in America but it did not just happen to America.

No matter our own beliefs, we all live in democratic freedom, which means that we have the expectation, at the very least, of not having our place of work defiled in the most horrible way just to satisfy someone else's political ends.

We are all here to pay our respects to those who did what we all do, but did not return.

We awake in the morning, we go to work, we come home from work. We do not expect not to come back.


People have left their lives behind and walked to this square to stand, with a common purpose, and think of those who have a greater burden to bear than we can possibly imagine

As I look around me, the people are the same as those who would have been in those towers or those planes.

Would that we understand their last moments, would that we could have been with them in their moment of absolution.

Silence is never total. The sounds of the world that exist under the everyday noise come through and add a poignancy to our thoughts.

It strikes me that the number of ordinary, decent people that I stand together with now could be the same number that perished on Tuesday.

This thought does not make it any easier.

Common purpose

The buses have stopped, the taxis too. The offices have cleared.

People have left their lives behind and walked to this square to stand, with a common purpose, and think of those who have a greater burden to bear than we can possibly imagine.

I have never felt more of a citizen of this world than I do now.

This week started as another ordinary week. It did not finish in the same fashion.

See also:

14 Sep 01 | Scotland
Silent tribute to US victims
14 Sep 01 | Scotland
Transatlantic flights to resume
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Black box found in US search
12 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scotland's leaders united in sorrow
11 Sep 01 | Americas
US rocked by terrorist attacks
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