Reporting the Horror

 "News shock" – it was a regional newspaper editor who found the best words to sum up the reaction of journalists throughout the country to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Gathered together in the newsroom of the Evening Star, Ipswich, Nigel Pickover’s team "watched the emerging details in stunned silence – some of the team went into a kind of news shock. I’ve never seen such a reaction."

But in a moment of history, staff everywhere were jolted out of their incredulity to tell the rest of the world what had happened.

For perhaps the first time in history the same story appeared on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.

While the nationals despaired of getting people into North America as first the US, then Canada and Mexico shut their borders, it was those with teams already in the States which won out.

The Daily Telegraph and The Sun had, coincidentally, two people in New York who would not normally have been there. Telegraph deputy editor Sarah Sands was there for the city’s fashion week. She had decided to take a look at Lower Manhattan before her first designer show at noon and was walking towards the World Trade Center when the first plane slammed into the towers.

The Telegraph’s Philip Delves Broughton was also close to the towers when the attack began and between them they produced extraordinarily detailed colour pieces.

The Sun’s new New York correspondent, Brian Flynn, had not even taken up his post but was in the city to hunt for a flat.  He was actually talking on his mobile to head of news Graham Dudman in Wapping when he saw the first kamikaze airplane. He continued talking long enough for newsdesk administrator Nancy Jones, almost in tears at his descriptions, to get several takes. Sun photographer Thomas Hinton, son of News International chairman Les, "cheated death", said the paper, when he was just 20 yards from the collapsing towers.

PA’s New York correspondent, Hugh Dougherty, "stared death in the face and lived". Dougherty, who only went out to New York in March, was choked with ash when the second plane blasted into the towers and just 200 yards away when the first tower collapsed.

After his first snap reached PA London’s foreign desk at 1.50pm, his mobile phone was cut off and he had to struggle back to his apartment to give an emotive eyewitness report of the scenes of devastation, which went out at 2.13pm.

Dougherty, who had previously worked in PA’s Glasgow office on a graduate traineeship since 1999, said in his report: "It was only when I got home I felt on my face a sensation like sunburn, after I had cleaned white-grey soot from around my eyes.  It was then I realised why people were staring at me as I walked away from the scene – I was literally caked in ash.

"As I was walking further and further from the scene, it became clearer that where I had been standing just minutes before had been virtually destroyed. ‘What happened to you?’ a woman asked me, almost severely. I did not have an answer for her."

Dougherty managed just a couple of hours sleep before he was back reporting the aftermath early on Wednesday.

The Guardian had Michael Ellison, Ed Vulliamy and Jane Martinson in New York, Julian Borger in Washington and Duncan Campbell  in LA.

Mirror editor Piers Morgan – on sick leave after an operation – returned to the office immediately.

His US editor, Andy Lines, filled page after page of The Mirror’s coverage, which included man-on-the-ground Lee Brown’s account of the chaos.

The Scotsman completely changed its format, wiping advertisements from the first 12 pages, which went to full colour. It increased its print run by 40 per cent. Editor Rebecca Hardy said: "Even in these days of TV and instant communications, a big news story, accompanied by good writing and pictures, is still the surest way of selling newspapers."

Reports that Canary Wharf was being evacuated on Tuesday afternoon in case of attack were refuted by police, who said traffic jams in the area were due to people leaving the offices early. The journalists certainly stayed doggedly in place.

Canada Tower’s fire alarms went off and the lights went out momentarily – but this was caused by a collective rush to the wire services to get the latest update.

Mirror staff were told: "Contrary to reports you may have seen on the TV news, the building is NOT being evacuated. Canary Wharf is under no threat. Please remain calm and continue as normal."

But plans were already under way to despatch a Mirror production team to Scotland to make sure the paper got out in the event of attack.

Telegraph journalists were reassured by the voice of managing director Jeremy Deedes over the Tannoy saying that if any of them were feeling at all uneasy they could go home, except those involved in the production of the paper that night.

By Jean Morgan

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