9/11 memories: Jason Burke

We asked a journalist: where were you on 9/11?

I'd been travelling in Algeria but was back in the office at the Observer on the day. I remember standing next to Paul Webster, the deputy editor, watching the television, seeing the second plane go in, and turning to Paul and saying, "That's Bin Laden." He said, "How do you know?" and I said, "I can't think of anybody else who would do it." So he said, "Well, you'd better get a satellite phone and some money and get a plane." Which is what I did, to Peshawar.

Like anybody, I could not compute what was happening. I remember the sight of the second skyscraper going down, and people in the office reacting very strongly. I still was not in a reactive mode: I was incapable of relating what I was seeing to something that was happening. I remember going home to get my stuff to go to the airport, and having great difficulty processing the information. It took a long time. I still watch the pictures and feel the same thing.

I was away for three months. I was in Pakistan for a while, then Afghanistan, and came straight out from Kabul to merry scenes of B-52s bombing a hillside in Afghanistan. I got back to the office in mid-December, on the day of the Christmas party - it was very strange trying to compute that as well.

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This article first appeared in the 05 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, 9/11