Havering MP vividly recollects the day US was rocked by terrorism

Ten years on from the September 11 attacks in the US, events are still vivid for a Havering MP who was only a few hundred yards away from the Pentagon when a hijacked plane flew into it.

Angela Watkinson, now MP for Upminster and Hornchurch, was in the nearby Capitol Building when the jet crashed into the headquarters of the US Department of Defence, killing more than 150 people.

She was visiting the US as part of a British parliamentary delegation.

Later that week she told the Recorder: “We all thought it was just a bomb scare of the sort we are used to in London, but as we went out we could see the clouds of smoke coming from the Pentagon.

“We had not heard anything from where we were and did not know at that stage about the disasters at the World Trade Center.”

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The MPs and many others were evacuated to a local bar where they watched the horrors unfold on TV. Once outside she saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon over Washington.

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Ms Watkinson said she still clearly remembers the day: “I have a mental picture of everyone evacuated from the Capitol, running across the lawns and on their mobile phones.”

The MPs were flown back to the UK by the RAF and later returned to finish their business.

She recalls the feelings in both countries being very similar. “The mood (in the UK) reflected that of the American public – shock and disbelief.

“It was interesting to see all Americans, Afro, Hispanic, Italian, Irish, come together. They were all American first that day.”

And Ms Watkinson feels the day still impacts on both the government and the public in the UK.

She said: “It had a very sobering effect – I think everyone is now primed to expect the unexpected.

“9/11 and other events since, have demonstrated that zealots and terrorists prize their distorted beliefs above human life. Our everyday lives have been changed, probably forever – just take airport security as one example. The prevention of terrorism measures cost billions of pounds.”

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