'Gone are the days when you could ask to sit behind the pilot'

Traveller's tales - Beyond 9/11: Ruby Wax, Alastair Stewart , Jon Snow and others remember 9/11


Kate Humble - TV Presenter


"I was doing a photo-shoot in the Bombay Brasserie in London.

"One of the guys who owned the restaurant came running in and said, "Quick come into the office and look at the television, something's happened in New York." So we all ran in and saw the footage of the first tower and the first plane flying in. Everyone started phoning everyone they knew, because all of them had people in New York as it was Fashion Week.

The consensus was that we should be stiff-upper-lip and carry on with the shoot. So then we went in to this weird parallel world of the photo-shoot knowing that something absolutely world-changing was happening.

Since then I've done a lot of travel in the Middle East. And what staggers me is that people in the Middle East have been more open-minded than perhaps we have been.

The total lack of hostility, and absence of judgement towards me, seemed to be in contrast to the way we look at the region. If I went to Yemen or Afghanistan or Saudi with a US visa in my passport, no one would question it. When I went to America and they looked through my passport and saw all those stamps, I was stopped and questioned about what I did. In America, I was seen as a potential threat, because I dared to visit those other countries.



Alastair Stewart - ITN Newscaster

I was having lunch with a former colleague of mine. We walked back to the LWT Tower on London's South Bank and into the lobby where the pictures were flowing freely and we just stood there utterly aghast. The travel dimension to it, which is chilling for me, was that it had not been long before, that my wife and I and two of our children had stood together as tourists on top of one of the Twin Towers. I can remember the view and looking down as a tourist over New York. I have been back to the city a couple of times since. The first time I went back afterwards, I made a point of going to Ground Zero and just felt completely emotionally drained. Because it wasn't the wreckage that people had seen in the video footage. It was a building site that had been cleared, where several thousand people lost their lives.



William Dalrymple - Travel writer and historian

I was in London at home when it happened, but was due that very weekend to fly out to Istanbul for a family wedding. A cousin of mine was getting married out there to a Phanariot Greek girl in Istanbul at the place which was in many ways the traditional fault line of Christianity and Islam: at the Orthodox Patriarchate church in Istanbul in the Phanar area. Ever since the Turkish conquest of Constantinople it has been one of the main bones of contention between Christianity and Islam.

The wedding was cancelled, because none of the guests wanted to travel there. But we had bought non-refundable tickets, so we jumped on the plane anyway. And I've never had Istanbul to myself – there wasn't a tourist in the city. Since then, I've had the same problems with everyone else in terms of travel – pyjama parties at airports, everyone having to walk around in their socks. I've spent a lot of time since in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, which always leads to problems entering New York, with my Iranian visas and Syrian visas.



Tony Wheeler - Co-founder of Lonely Planet

It was late night in Australia when the World Trade Centre towers were hit. I stayed up most of the night watching the story unroll on TV. Bizarrely, 24 hours later, I was doing the opening address at the International Map Trade Association's convention in Melbourne's World Trade Centre. So I talked about maps, seeing a map of New York change in front of my eyes and then pondering if the attack had been inspired by other maps. "Maps showing the proliferation of refugee camps on the borders of Afghanistan", or "maps detailing the settlements which seem designed to underline who holds the absolute power on the West Bank". Ten years later I'd still stand by that instant summation of what the attacks were about.

The following year I was back in New York and went to look at the site of the Twin Towers, but my post-9/11 travels also took me back to Afghanistan for the first time since the 1970s and to Saudi Arabia because I wanted to see where so many of the hijackers had come from.



Frank Gardner - BBC Security Correspondent

I was in a Palestinian taxi on my way from the BBC's Jerusalem bureau to Tel Aviv airport when the driver suddenly turned up the radio. New York had been attacked and he was as shocked as I was. He stepped on the gas and I made it to the airport just in time to catch one of the last flights back to Cairo that night before they closed Israeli airspace. The long-term effects of 9/11 on travel have of course been huge and mostly permanent. Even George Clooney had to take off his shoes for X-ray in the film Up In The Air and gone are the cosy days when you could wander up to the cockpit and ask to sit behind the pilot. Mostly, I have found airport security measures to be sensible, but on a family holiday to India this year I was given the third degree for having a wheelchair which Delhi airport security seemed irrationally determined to separate me from!



Lyn Hughes - Editor-in-Chief of Wanderlust

It seemed incredibly unreal. The feeling of sheer shock was huge, leaving us speechless. About a month later we polled the readers to see how they had been affected. Although we consider "Wanderlusters" a resilient lot, more than a quarter of them said they were reconsidering their travel plans. Many readers said they would avoid US and Middle Eastern airlines.

Since then, we seem to have adjusted to a new reality; of tighter security, of rules and restrictions. Most travellers appear to be fairly sanguine about it all. You have to be.

Jon Snow - Journalist

When the news broke I was in a café in London's Charlotte Street with some BT executives. I got on my bike and hared back to Channel 4 News, going live by the time the second plane hit. I was later stranded at Stansted trying unsuccessfully to penetrate closed US air space to cover the story. Although it has recently improved somewhat, the aggressive security and immigration checks have bordered on infringing anyone's human rights. The maddest and most illogical being the absurd "liquids" check which is consistent in its inconsistent application around the world.

Ruby Wax - Comedienne

I was in a car going to a TV studio to do a show. I heard it over the radio with my driver, whose aunt cleaned in the Twin Towers. So then it was a double whammy. I went into the TV studio and we could see it on the screens.

Afterwards, fear came in. The ante has been upped. Now there's just horror in the air every time you go to an airport. I think the legacy in terms of travel is something very unconscious. Now it's like a dictatorship in the airport. I'm always terrified; I sit on planes with my head between my knees. I'm always waiting for an explosion.

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