9/11 memories: Elizabeth Turner

We asked the author of The Blue Skies of Autumn: where were you on 9/11?

I stood quietly on my own, watching the TV screen in my office at Channel 4 Television. I couldn't quite understand what had happened, but the "Breaking News" tagline on Sky News was telling the world that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. I thought it was a small aviation accident but I watched in disbelief as a small black dot flew into the second tower and burst into a huge fireball. Everything around me moved into slow motion. I was aware of the rush of sheer terror that washed over me in that one, single moment. As quickly as it came, I pushed it away. I didn't dare believe the impact of what had just happened. Even though I was seven months pregnant and knew that Simon, my husband, was hosting a conference on the top floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center, I kept telling myself that this sort of thing only happens to other people. My husband wasn't going to die in a terrorist attack when I was pregnant with our first child.

Simon Turner died on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001

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

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Labour tensions boil over at fractious MPs' meeting

Corbyn supporters and critics clash over fiscal charter U-turn and new group Momentum. 

"A total fucking shambles". That was the verdict of the usually emollient Ben Bradshaw as he left tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. His words were echoed by MPs from all wings of the party. "I've never seen anything like it," one shadow minister told me. In commitee room 14 of the House of Commons, tensions within the party - over the U-turn on George Osborne's fiscal charter and new Corbynite group Momentum - erupted. 

After a short speech by Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought to explain his decision to oppose Osborne's fiscal charter (having supported it just two weeks ago). He cited the change in global economic conditions and the refusal to allow Labour to table an amendment. McDonnell also vowed to assist colleagues in Scotland in challenging the SNP anti-austerity claims. But MPs were left unimpressed. "I don't think I've ever heard a weaker round of applause at the PLP than the one John McDonnell just got," one told me. MPs believe that McDonnell's U-turn was due to his failure to realise that the fiscal charter mandated an absolute budget surplus (leaving no room to borrow to invest), rather than merely a current budget surplus. "A huge joke" was how a furious John Mann described it. He and others were outraged by the lack of consultation over the move. "At 1:45pm he [McDonnell] said he was considering our position and would consult with the PLP and the shadow cabinet," one MP told me. "Then he announces it before 6pm PLP and tomorow's shadow cabinet." 

When former shadow cabinet minister Mary Creagh asked Corbyn about the new group Momentum, which some fear could be used as a vehicle to deselect critical MPs (receiving what was described as a weak response), Richard Burgon, one of the body's directors, offered a lengthy defence and was, one MP said, "just humiliated". He added: "It looked at one point like they weren't even going to let him finish. As the fractious exchanges were overheard by journalists outside, Emily Thornberry appealed to colleagues to stop texting hacks and keep their voices down (within earshot of all). 

After a calmer conference than most expected, tonight's meeting was evidence of how great the tensions within Labour remain. Veteran MPs described it as the worst PLP gathering for 30 years. The fear for all MPs is that they have the potential to get even worse. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.