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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Famous 'Big John' dinosaur skeleton - the most complete set of triceratops bones ever discovered - will be auctioned in Paris next month for an estimated $1.8 million

 A famed dinosaur skeleton that is the most complete set of triceratops bones ever discovered will go up for auction next month - and are estimated to fetch $1.8 million. 

The skeleton, affectionately named 'Big John', is more than 60 percent complete and its skull is 75 percent complete, Drout, the auction house, handling the sale, said on its website.

Big John is 66-million-years old, with his skull measuring 8.6 feet (2.6 meters) long and 6.6 feet (2m) wide. The horns on the massive dinosaur are each 3.6 feet (1.1m) long and almost 12 inches wide. 

They allowed the formidable creature to withstands 16 tons of pressure, according to New Atlas.  

Drouot estimates Big John will sell for $1.4-$1.8 million when the remains go under the hammer in Paris next month. 

'I imagine there are about 10 buyers worldwide for this kind of piece,' said Alexandre Giquello, who is leading the sale. 

The fossilized remains of 'Big John', the largest triceratops ever discovered, will be sold at auction next month. The skeleton is more than 60% complete and its skull is 75% complete

The fossilized remains of 'Big John', the largest triceratops ever discovered, will be sold at auction next month. The skeleton is more than 60% complete and its skull is 75% complete

The first bones were discovered in May 2014 by geologist Walter W. Stein Bill in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota

The first bones were discovered in May 2014 by geologist Walter W. Stein Bill in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota

The first bones were discovered in May 2014 by geologist Walter W. Stein Bill in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota. 

Since then, 60 percent of Big John's skeleton has been found, including its nearly-complete skull. In total, more than 200 of the dinosaur's bones have been unearthed.

Since then, 60 percent of Big John's skeleton has been found, including its nearly-complete skull. In total, more than 200 of the dinosaur's bones have been unearthed

Since then, 60 percent of Big John's skeleton has been found, including its nearly-complete skull. In total, more than 200 of the dinosaur's bones have been unearthed

There is a laceration on Big John's collar, which is likely 'evidence of a duel with another, smaller triceratops in which Big John was reportedly injured'

There is a laceration on Big John's collar, which is likely 'evidence of a duel with another, smaller triceratops in which Big John was reportedly injured'

According to Drout, there is a laceration on Big John's collar, which is likely 'evidence of a duel with another, smaller triceratops in which Big John was reportedly injured,' the auction house wrote on its website. 

'These violent fights took place during the life of these animals, probably for reasons of territorial defense or courtship.'

In October 2020, the skeleton was sent to the Zoic workshop in Trieste, Italy for restoration, New Atlas added.

The giant herbivore lived in Laramidia (also the home of Tyrannosaurus rex), an island continent that stretched from Alaska to Mexico. 

Big John died in a floodplain, which allowed his skeleton to be preserved in mud, Drout added.

Big John will be exhibited in an emblematic square in Italy before heading over to France in October for the public to see, prior to the October 21 auction. 

Other dinosaur fossils have sold for significant sums in recent memory, including two allosaurs sold for $1.66 million (1.4 million euros) and $3.56 million (3 million euros) in 2018 and 2020, respectively, the auction house said.

A diplodocus fossil was sold for $1.66 million (1.4 million euros) in 2018 as well.

Once primarily sold to museums, dinosaur remains have increasingly attracted private buyers, though their numbers remain few.

In October 2020, a 40ft-long T. rex fossil sold for a record-breaking $31 million at auction, nearly four times the previous record of a dinosaur fossil. 

WHAT MADE THE TRICERATOPS SO FIERCE? 

Triceratops were herbivores and had two big horns over their eyes and a smaller nose horn, as well as a parrot-like beak and a large frill that could reach nearly 1 meter (3 feet) across.

According to the Natural History Museum in London, UK, its horns could have been used to ward off attacks from Tyrannosaurus rex, one of its main predators. 

A partial Triceratops fossil found in 1997 had a horn that was bitten off, with bite marks that match T. rex. 

Triceratops likely lived in herds to warn each others of danger and reduce their chances of being targeted by predators. Pictured is a reconstruction of what a Triceratops may have looked like 

Triceratops likely lived in herds to warn each others of danger and reduce their chances of being targeted by predators. Pictured is a reconstruction of what a Triceratops may have looked like 

There have also been puncture marks found on fossil frills showing that male Triceratops also used their horns to fight each other, perhaps to impress females. 

Triceratops' frills could have been used to attract mates, or as a way for members of the same species to recognize one another, or to regulate body temperature.

Triceratops likely lived in herds to warn each others of danger and reduce their chances of being targeted by predators. 

Now that's what you call social distancing! It's Britain's most isolated home, with a 5-mile trek to pick up a pint of milk. But what it lacks in heating or mains electricity, it makes up for with Lake District views to die for... and it's yours for £1.5m

 Don’t even try to find this place with a satnav. I tap in the postcode and it takes me three miles and one mountain wide of the mark. In any case, there is no mobile telephone signal anywhere near the actual spot.

From the nearest bit of road (a tiny lane in itself), it’s a half-hour crawl by car along a winding and increasingly inhospitable, deeply rutted mountain track, zig-zagging up a rocky hillside, over a waterfall, across a grouse moor and over another river — avoiding a few very severe drops along the way.

And that is assuming that you have been given the code for the padlock on the gate and you are driving a vehicle at the very top end of the 4x4 spectrum. If not, it is a bracing two-hour walk or a long slog by mountain bike. 

But then, that is the whole point of Skiddaw House in Cumbria — ‘the most remote home in England’. So say the estate agents now charged with selling it. Others have called it the ‘highest house’, too, at more than 1,500 ft.

Hikers¿ paradise: Skiddaw House in the Lake District (pictured), 'the most remote home in England', is on the market for £1.5 million

Hikers’ paradise: Skiddaw House in the Lake District (pictured), 'the most remote home in England', is on the market for £1.5 million

In recent days, there has been quite a bit of coverage about this year’s most unusual addition to the property market. So what is it actually like?

There is no estate agent to show me round today. It would take one of them the best part of a day to do a single viewing.

Promised ‘the ultimate off-grid bolthole’, I have come armed with boots, an Ordnance Survey map and a hired Land Rover, plus the agents’ particulars.

The vendors are positively rejoicing in the lack of mod-cons. This is a north-facing house with no mains electricity or gas or telephone or neighbours. All the water comes straight off the mountain. 

There is no heating, though there is a wood-burning stove and hot water, courtesy of some solar panels on the roof — but these get precious little sunshine in winter. All cooking is done the propane gas canisters. There is no internet, meaning Twitter, Instagram and other social media is out of the question, praise the Lord.

There is no estate agent to show me round today. It would take one of them the best part of a day to do a single viewing. Pictured: Robert Hardman checks out the property

There is no estate agent to show me round today. It would take one of them the best part of a day to do a single viewing. Pictured: Robert Hardman checks out the property

This is a north-facing house with no mains electricity or gas or telephone or neighbours or internet. (Pictured: The track leading to Skiddaw House)

This is a north-facing house with no mains electricity or gas or telephone or neighbours or internet. (Pictured: The track leading to Skiddaw House)

It is four miles as the crow flies to the Lake District village of Bassenthwaite and the nearest pub, the Sun Inn. It is rather further than that for us non-crows. The nearest pint of milk is a five-mile trek in the opposite direction — to Keswick, down a path which is only accessible on foot or bike — and back again.

If you want to do the journey in your 4x4, then it is a 20-mile round trip. Allow at least a couple of hours.

And do not be ill. The only ambulance capable of reaching Skiddaw House is a chopper. Back in pre-aviation days, when a visitor to the house took a turn for the worse and died in February 1853, the Carlisle Journal reported that it required 16 men, two horses and a cart to get her body down to the funeral — and even then the coffin got stuck in a snowdrift.

The upside? On a sunny day, like the one I pick for this week’s visit, it is bewilderingly beautiful. For Skiddaw House overlooks nothing at all except Lake District fells in all directions. There is not a single dwelling or road or pylon or telegraph pole or wind turbine as far as the eye can see.

The only man-made structure at all is a stretch of ancient dry stone wall. Even now, at the height of the holiday season — with Lake District prices and popularity at an all-time high courtesy of Covid — this place is still well off the beaten track for most hikers. Over the course of a couple of hours, I spot precisely four human beings anywhere on the entire horizon.

We are, of course, in Wordsworth country, where the poet ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’. I wonder if he ever made it up here.

In winter, there is often no one at all. That is when the access track ices up, making the place completely inaccessible to all vehicles. It turns out the reason for the padlock on the gate is to stop people trying to drive up in unsuitable, underpowered vehicles which, even in normal weather, can simply slide on the steep shale and tumble over the edge, down the mountain. It has happened a couple of times.

Skiddaw House is a much-loved hostel for hikers. Anyone can stay here for around £20 a night, and prior to the pandemic, around 2,500 people a year would trek over Skiddaw, Blencathra or Carrock Fell to spend a night here. (Pictured: The kitchen area)

Skiddaw House is a much-loved hostel for hikers. Anyone can stay here for around £20 a night, and prior to the pandemic, around 2,500 people a year would trek over Skiddaw, Blencathra or Carrock Fell to spend a night here. (Pictured: The kitchen area)

In midwinter, the waterfall ices over and nothing can get through except a tank.

Yet the current residents, a young couple who run it as a hostel, adore the views and the fathomless, inky darkness which comes with not seeing a single light at night. ‘I actually look forward to winter,’ says Martin, who manages the place with his partner, Suzy. ‘For every bad day you get a few really amazing ones.’

His only contact with the outside world is a satellite link to check for online reservations.

So what is the asking price for this bracing solitude? Estate agents Mitchells of Cockermouth have a guide price of £1.5 million, though admit that there is nothing to compare it with. They call it a former aristocratic ‘shooting lodge’, which seems a little flattering for a plain, low-lying, concrete-rendered knock-through of two cottages.

And it comes with just three acres of land — little more than a postage stamp in this soaring, dramatic landscape of heather, crag, wildflower and grass.

However, it also sits in a location which has earned it a legion of followers all over the world.

For Skiddaw House is a much-loved hostel for hikers. Anyone can stay here for around £20 a night, although Covid restrictions mean that, for now, people must book in advance and in self-contained groups — up to 20 at a time.

They will find a friendly host providing a clean and homely berth with a log fire, cooking facilities, loos, a couple of showers, fresh sheets and even a little shop if any intrepid adventurers find themselves short of food (or drink).

Guests sleep in four bunk rooms — all named after birds and all with astounding views. They cook their own food but eat around a big communal table in a large kitchen.

With no TV or internet, evening entertainment usually consists of that time-honoured pleasure, fireside conversation, unless anyone is up to playing the two guitars by the bookcase in the ‘common room’.

The current residents, a young couple, Martin and Suzy, both avid fell-runners, think nothing of a ten-mile round trip to town on foot for a pint of milk. (Pictured: The kitchen area)

The current residents, a young couple, Martin and Suzy, both avid fell-runners, think nothing of a ten-mile round trip to town on foot for a pint of milk. (Pictured: The kitchen area)

You could have the party of the century up here and make all the noise you like. There are no neighbours to annoy. But since there is nowhere to plug in a sound system or an amplifier, that is not going to happen.

Now, the farmer who owns this place has decided he wants to sell the freehold and release some capital for other projects. For now, the tenant is a charity which operates the hostel and has another six years on the lease. After that, it will be up to the new owner to decide what happens next.

Since it sits slap bang in the middle of a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at the heart of a national park, development opportunities are limited.

Some walking groups have already expressed an interest in it and there have been a couple of enquiries from overseas. However, there is also a chance of Skiddaw House going back to what it has been for the best part of 200 years — a home.

It was built in the early 19th century by the very rich and very unuxorious 3rd Earl of Egremont, who was said to have sired 43 illegitimate children but no legitimate heir. His palatial main seat was Petworth House in Sussex, where he had ample room to accommodate his brood plus a steady stream of artists, including Turner and Constable.

The earl also had significant estates in Cumberland near his northern home at Cockermouth Castle. This included the 3,000-acre Skiddaw Forest. Sitting on mighty Skiddaw mountain — at 3,054 ft above sea level, it is the sixth-highest peak in England — this was good land for both farming sheep and shooting grouse.

The upside? On a sunny day, like the one I pick for this week¿s visit, it is bewilderingly beautiful. For Skiddaw House overlooks nothing at all except Lake District fells in all directions.

The upside? On a sunny day, like the one I pick for this week’s visit, it is bewilderingly beautiful. For Skiddaw House overlooks nothing at all except Lake District fells in all directions.

Skiddaw House was therefore built to house a gamekeeper to tend his Lordship’s sporting birds and a shepherd to look after the sheep. When the shooting season came around, the building would then be used to accommodate the earl and his shooting party.

On his death, Lord Egremont’s title passed to a nephew, but he split his lands between some of his many children. His Cumberland estates went to Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Wyndham, his second illegitimate son, who had fought gallantly at the Battle of Waterloo.

He was holding the line at Hougoumont Farm, a vital stronghold. Vastly outnumbered by Napoleon’s attacking force, Wyndham and his men famously managed to push them back and slam shut the courtyard gates, thus keeping the French at bay at a crucial moment. He sustained such terrible injuries that, so it was said, he never closed another door for the rest of his life.

Up on the Skiddaw Forest estate, a succession of tenants occupied the two cottages for a century and a half, though not without incident. As well as the woman who died in 1853 — she was a maternity nurse tending to the gamekeeper’s pregnant wife — there was a dreadful tale ten years later.

At a ‘shepherds’ meet’ held at the house, a nine-year-old boy called Tom Hodgson was goaded in to drinking so much rum and gin that he died — ‘howling like a wolf’ — of alcohol poisoning.

All these tales are included in a splendid little book called The Loneliest House In England, by John Martin, which sits on sale at the hostel. It explains how the house went into decline after World War II (when many aircraft crashed in to the fells hereabouts).

Whacked by death duties, the Wyndham family auctioned off much of their land in 1957. The 3,000 acres of Skiddaw Forest —including the two cottages and the mountain — failed to reach the reserve price of £4,250 but were sold privately to a local farmer.

Over the subsequent years, the cottages fell into disrepair. The last resident, a much-loved local shepherd called Pearson Dalton, retired down the mountain with his dogs, cat and nanny goat in 1969. The place was then used for occasional school camping trips, but eventually became derelict.

By the 1980s, there were smashed windows and sheep wandering inside and out.

But a dedicated hill-walker and builder from the south of England called John Bothamley had visions of a hostel for passing walkers. Assisted by a team of volunteers, he spent two years restoring it and by 1987, it had opened as a bunkhouse for trekkers.

Since then, it has closed, reopened and changed hands once more, but is thriving. That great chronicler of the fells, Alfred Wainwright, recorded and sketched it. Britain’s best-known climber, Sir Chris Bonington, has been to visit.

Since 2007, it has operated as a charity linked to the Youth Hostel Association and prior to the pandemic, around 2,500 people a year would trek over Skiddaw, Blencathra or Carrock Fell to spend a night here.

Though the numbers trickle to nothing during midweek winter months, the place is still a refuge — as it was last New Year when a father with two young sons got lost as dusk fell. He had been navigating with a mobile phone and lost his signal.

Martin provided them with torches and advice on how to get safely off the mountain.

‘Sometimes, you can go a week or two without seeing a soul,’ he says. He also points out that even in the depths of winter, when the track can be impassable for weeks, you are never ‘locked in’ entirely.

‘You can always just walk down the hill — or even ski,’ he says.

Both avid fell-runners, he and Suzy think nothing of a ten-mile round trip to town on foot.

Following the birth of their baby daughter, Jasmin, however, they are planning to move down in to the valley and will soon be handing the hostel over to a new manager for the rest of the lease.

After that, no one knows what will happen. The hiking world very much hopes the new freeholder will keep it as a hostel or educational field centre.

The estate agents recognise its shortcomings. ‘It won’t suit many,’ says Andrew Wright of Mitchells, ‘but there is simply nothing else like it.’

You certainly won’t be ordering from Amazon ever again . . . 

Dawn of a 20-year disaster: It was the atrocity that triggered a chain of events that led to this week's US humiliation in Kabul. Exactly two decades on, the story of 9/11 will shock you anew in this gut-wrenching account of horror from a clear blue sky

 More than eight years before the terrible events of 9/11, in February 1993, a 1,500lb bomb exploded underneath New York’s Twin Towers. It had been planted by Al Qaeda.

Six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured, but the World Trade Centre did not fall. Al Qaeda concluded that only a more ingenious attack would bring down the iconic towers.

In 1996, from his base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and his right-hand man, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, began planning ‘the Planes Operation’. Four teams, each with a pilot and a group of ‘muscle men’, would hijack airliners and fly them into the Twin Towers and other symbolically significant American targets.

In 2001, news of the plot leaked: a CIA intelligence report warned that something ‘very, very, very, very’ big was imminent. As the CIA boss George Tenet said later: ‘The system was blinking red.’

They knew something terrible was about to happen — but they didn’t know how to stop it.

In 1996, from his base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and his right-hand man, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, began planning ‘the Planes Operation’

In 1996, from his base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and his right-hand man, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, began planning ‘the Planes Operation’

Pictured: Taliban fighters on top of a Humvee parade along a road in Kandahar on September 1, 2021, after the US pulled its troops out of Afghanistan

Pictured: Taliban fighters on top of a Humvee parade along a road in Kandahar on September 1, 2021, after the US pulled its troops out of AfghanistanTuesday, Sept 11, 2001

4am: American Airlines Flight attendant Amy Sweeney is getting ready to go to work with a heavy heart. She’s spent the summer with her two children and today is the first day she won’t be putting her daughter, Anna, onto the bus for her kindergarten.

In Room 308 of the Milner Hotel, Boston, Egyptian-born Mohamed Atta is preparing to check out. He also has a plane to catch. In his luggage he puts his copy of the Koran, a folding knife, pepper spray and a videotape on how to fly Boeing jets.

6.30am: 1,000 miles away in Florida, President George W. Bush is having an early morning run in the dark around a golf course followed by his team of Secret Service agents. This morning he is due to meet children and parents at a nearby elementary school.

In Britain, the President’s friend and ally Tony Blair is on a train to Brighton with his press secretary, Alastair Campbell, putting the finishing touches to his speech to the TUC conference. It tackles the economy, Europe and the issue of asylum-seekers.

6.45am: At Boston’s Logan International Airport, Mohamed Atta and four Saudi nationals are checking in for Flight 11 bound for Los Angeles. Atta has been personally selected by Bin Laden to be the mission’s commander, but he is nervous.

The check-in clerk notices he is sweating profusely — ‘his forehead was drenched’. Because of their nationality and travel movements, three of the men are identified by the computer as potentially suspect and their bags X-rayed, but nothing suspicious is found.

In 2001, news of the plot leaked: a CIA intelligence report warned that something ‘very, very, very, very’ big was imminent. As the CIA boss George Tenet said later: ‘The system was blinking red.’ Pictured: Explosions rock the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, after the towers were hit by two planes

In 2001, news of the plot leaked: a CIA intelligence report warned that something ‘very, very, very, very’ big was imminent. As the CIA boss George Tenet said later: ‘The system was blinking red.’ Pictured: Explosions rock the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, after the towers were hit by two planes

6.50am: Nearby, United Airlines representative Gail Jawahir is repeating the standard security questions about luggage to two nervous UAE nationals, as they are having trouble understanding her. They are part of a five-man Al Qaeda unit all with tickets for Los Angeles Flight 175.

In New York, lawyer Edie Lutnick receives a call from a client cancelling their 8.30am meeting. She goes back to sleep — now she won’t have to go to her office at the World Trade Centre.

7.00am: The tall figure of Stephen Mulderry makes his way through the New York streets on his way to the World Trade Centre where he works as an equity trader. On any given day, 50,000 workers occupy the building’s famous Twin Towers which soar a quarter of a mile into the sky.

In 1968, opponents of the proposed buildings released an advert showing a passenger jet flying into the North Tower. Outraged structural engineers claimed each tower was built to withstand a direct hit by a Boeing 707.

7.15am: At Logan Airport, Flight 11 is being loaded with fuel and baggage, so Amy Sweeney takes the opportunity to call her husband Mike to say how sorry she is not to have seen their daughter off to kindergarten. He reassures her saying there’ll be plenty of other opportunities. In the first class cabin, Lynn Angell and her husband, David, the creator and producer of TV hit comedy series Frasier, take their seats next to Mohamed Atta.

7.30am: Four hundred miles away at Washington Dulles Airport, Saudi brothers Nawaf and Salem al Hazmi run into the terminal, late to catch American Airlines Flight 77. The men have only one small bag and Salem is behaving strangely. ‘He was grinning, he was smiling, and he was dancing back and forth,’ recalled check-in clerk Vaughn Allex.

Nawaf sets off two metal detectors, so a security guard checks him with a hand-wand, but it picks up nothing suspicious.

At 9.08am at the Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, President Bush is reading to a class of children, watched by reporters. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card whispers in his ear: ‘America is under attack’

At 9.08am at the Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, President Bush is reading to a class of children, watched by reporters. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card whispers in his ear: ‘America is under attack’

7.40am: A few moments before Flight 11 is due to leave the gate, American Airlines manager Michael Woodward comes aboard for a final check. Mohamed Atta stares at him and a chill passes through Woodward; something about the man doesn’t feel right, but that’s no reason to stop the flight.

8.14am: Just 15 minutes into Flight 11’s journey, the hijack begins when Atta and the other terrorists spray mace into the first-class cabin. They claim they have a bomb, to force the passengers to the rear of the plane.

Passenger Daniel Lewin, a former Israeli commando, tries to intervene but has his throat cut by one of the terrorists. They then force their way into the cockpit, kill or disable the two pilots and Atta takes over the controls.

8.19am: At the Pentagon in Washington, headquarters of the U.S. military, fire-fighter and Vietnam veteran Alan Wallace is enjoying the early morning sunshine as he works on his fire truck. At midday President Bush will return from Florida and he wants to make sure everything is in order.

At the rear of Flight 11, attendant Betty Ong uses a seatback Airfone to call the American Airlines office; it is the first eye-witness account of the terror of 9/11. She says calmly: ‘The cockpit’s not answering. Somebody’s stabbed in business class and I think there’s mace . . . we can’t breathe. I think we’re getting hijacked.’ Betty tells them two flight attendants have also been stabbed.

At 9.03am in London, Cantor Fitzgerald brokers are on their squawk boxes shouting to their U.S. colleagues. ‘Another plane has gone into the South Tower! You need to get out!’

At 9.03am in London, Cantor Fitzgerald brokers are on their squawk boxes shouting to their U.S. colleagues. ‘Another plane has gone into the South Tower! You need to get out!’

8.24am: Mohamed Atta tries to pacify the passengers over the cockpit intercom but doesn’t know how to operate it, so only Boston Air Traffic Control hears him.

The first part of his message is unclear, but then he says: ‘Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.’

At the rear of the plane, flight attendant Amy Sweeney is discreetly on the phone to manager Michael Woodward, who 45 minutes earlier had been on the plane for final checks. She tells him the seat numbers of the hijackers and says the plane is ‘flying erratically’. Boston Air Traffic Control watch the Boeing 767 turn suddenly south towards New York City.

8.42am: At Newark airport, United Airlines Flight 93 takes off for San Francisco. On board are five attendants, 32 passengers, three Saudi terrorists and their Lebanese leader, Ziad Jarrah. He is in seat 1B, closest to the cockpit. The terrorists are a man short as one was refused entry in August by a suspicious immigration inspector.

9.15am: On Floor 78 of the South Tower, a wing of United Flight 175 has caused carnage to a large ‘sky lobby’ that links the upper and lower elevators. When the plane hit, there were already more than 200 people there waiting to evacuate

9.15am: On Floor 78 of the South Tower, a wing of United Flight 175 has caused carnage to a large ‘sky lobby’ that links the upper and lower elevators. When the plane hit, there were already more than 200 people there waiting to evacuate

8.45am: On United Airlines Flight 175, the seatbelt light goes off and the hijackers leap up, stab a flight attendant, storm the cockpit and kill the pilots.

Meanwhile, Flight 11 is approaching New York at high speed. Amy Sweeney tells manager Michael Woodward on the ground: ‘Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent. We are all over the place.’ He asks her to look out the window to find out where they are. ‘I see water. I see buildings. We are flying very, very low.’ After a pause, she says quietly: ‘Oh, my God. We are way too low!’

Travelling at over 460 mph, Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. 10,000 gallons of fuel explode in a fireball, causing the building to lean then right itself, and a fireball shoots down the elevators and explodes. Hundreds are killed by the impact and more than 1,300 workers are trapped on the floors above.

Bond trader Michael Wittenstein is on a call to a client and hangs up when the building is hit. Always polite, he calls the client back to apologise: ‘I believe there was an explosion in the boiler room.’ Michael is due to be married on October 20; he doesn’t survive. 

9.20am: At the Emma Booker Elementary School President Bush delivers a hastily written statement: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a difficult day for America. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Centre in an apparent attack on our country.’ The parents and community leaders present gasp. ‘Terrorism against our nation will not stand.’ Pictured: President Bush speaking to Vice President Dick Cheney onboard Air Force One on September 11, 2001

9.20am: At the Emma Booker Elementary School President Bush delivers a hastily written statement: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a difficult day for America. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Centre in an apparent attack on our country.’ The parents and community leaders present gasp. ‘Terrorism against our nation will not stand.’ Pictured: President Bush speaking to Vice President Dick Cheney onboard Air Force One on September 11, 2001

8.49am: On news channel CNN an advert for a money-lending company is interrupted and live images of the burning North Tower appear on the screen, a massive hole in its upper floors.

The presenter says: ‘This just in, you’re obviously looking at some very disturbing live shots . . . clearly something devastating happening there.’ Within minutes BBC, ITN and Sky take the coverage.

8.50am: On Flight 77, the terrorists use box cutters to get into the cockpit and knives to kill and stab the crew. Their target is the Pentagon.

People on the upper floors of the North Tower start jumping from the windows to escape the flames. One man holds on to his briefcase, a woman holds down her skirt for modesty, some hold hands.

8.52am: Flight 175 is heading for New York City. Peter Hanson, who is travelling with his wife and their two-year-old daughter, calls his father, Lee, and tells him the plane is flying erratically, people have been stabbed and to call United Airlines.

Before hanging up, Peter tells his father all the passengers are crowded in the rear of the plane. ‘It’s very tight here, Dad.’ Lee can’t get through to the airline so he calls the local police. An officer says: ‘Gee, Mr Hanson, a plane has hit the World Trade Tower. You should turn the television on.’

Pictured: People flee the area in New York as the second tower at the World Trade Center collapses

Pictured: People flee the area in New York as the second tower at the World Trade Center collapses

8.54am: Floors 101 to 105 of the North Tower are occupied by the investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald. Employees are on their ‘squawk’ boxes talking to colleagues in their London office to find out what is going on.

UK Managing director Shaun Lynn recalled: ‘They knew a plane had gone in below them, but there was confusion and they were asking us for clarity. Our London brokers described the smoke billowing from the North Tower they were seeing on their TV.’

8.55am: In Washington, the U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson is watching the coverage on the television in his office. His wife, Barbara, left this morning for Los Angeles. Ted does some quick calculations to work out if the plane that hit the World Trade Centre could be Barbara’s. He’s relieved to work out her flight could not have got to New York by then.

8.56am: Six men are trapped 500ft up in a North Tower elevator. Smoke is seeping into the car, so to prise the doors open they use the wooden handle of a squeegee belonging to window cleaner Jan Demczur. But facing them is a wall — they are stuck between floors. Jan taps the wall and, because he used to be a builder, he knows it can be cut open with a knife.

The only sharp object he has is the metal edge of his squeegee, so they take it in turns to scratch it up and down the wall. But when they are almost through, Jan drops the squeegee down the elevator shaft, so the six men resort to using their fists and the squeegee handle to break through. Finally they reach the tiles of a bathroom on the 50th floor. They’re free.

Pictured: Flames and smoke erupt from the towers after they are hit by two hijacked planes

 Pictured: Flames and smoke erupt from the towers after they are hit by two hijacked planes

8.57am: More than 230 firefighters are on their way to the scene. Many off-duty firefighters are going straight from their homes. It is the largest rescue in the city’s history. Fire Chief Peter Hayden recalled: ‘We had a very strong sense that we would lose firefighters and that we were in deep trouble.’

8.59am: Equity trader Stephen Mulderry is at his desk in the South Tower. His brother, Peter, has seen the news and calls him to ask if he’s all right. ‘Yeah, I was just over by the window, but, by God, I don’t know if people were falling or jumping, but I saw people falling to their death.’

Stephen is unware of the seriousness of the situation. ‘I gotta go, the lights are ringing and the market is going to open.’

On CNN the presenter speculates that a navigational error may have caused the crash. Hundreds of women’s shoes litter the ground around the base of the towers, kicked off as they fled.

9.00am: Boston Air Traffic control listen back to the first transmission from Mohamed Atta which had been hard to understand. They are stunned to hear him say: ‘We have some planes . . .’ There must be other hijackings.

In New York, lawyer Edie Lutnick, who had gone back to sleep after her meeting at the World Trade Centre was cancelled, answers the phone. A friend tells her to turn on the television. Smoke is pouring from the top of the North Tower where her two brothers, Gary and Howard, work.

Pictured: Civilians run away from the World Trade Center after two planes slammed into the twin towers

Pictured: Civilians run away from the World Trade Center after two planes slammed into the twin towers

Her phone rings again — it’s Gary. ‘Thank God you’re not there!’ she says. ‘But Edie, I am here,’ he replies. Gary explains calmly that he is in his office with the door closed. He tells Edie he loves her and says he is calling to say goodbye. She stays on the line until there is silence. Edie’s other brother, Howard, is safe.

9.03am: Lee Hanson gets another call from son Peter on Flight 175: ‘I think we are going down. I think they intend to go to Chicago or some place and fly into a building. Don’t worry, Dad. If it happens, it’ll be very fast.’

Lee hears a woman scream and his son say: ‘My God! My God!’ Peter’s mother said: ‘We heard his first cries and his last cries.’

On the 81st floor of the South Tower, Fuji Bank executive Stan Praimnath is eating a bagel. A colleague from their Chicago office calls him on the phone and yells: ‘Get out!’ Stan has no idea what she is talking about until he looks out of the window and sees the giant grey shape of United Flight 175 coming straight for him.

He dives under his desk as the plane slices into the building. Lee Hanson looks at the television and sees his son’s plane disintegrate. The right engine pierces the entire tower and lands five blocks away. A huge chunk of a wing embeds itself in a wall just 20ft from Stan Praimnath. By a miracle, he makes it out alive.

Pictured: A firefighter prays after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed on September 11, 2001

Pictured: A firefighter prays after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed on September 11, 2001

9.03am: In London, Cantor Fitzgerald brokers are on their squawk boxes shouting to their U.S. colleagues. ‘Another plane has gone into the South Tower! You need to get out!’

A hundred and one floors below Cantor Fitzgerald, firefighters begin climbing the North Tower stairs, laden with heavy protective clothing, breathing apparatus, hoses and tools.

Some stairways below the impact are crowded but just big enough to handle the numbers of people evacuating, despite the smoke. The firefighters are impressed by the lack of panic. As they climb higher, their radios are becoming less effective.

9.08am: At the Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, President Bush is reading to a class of children, watched by reporters. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card whispers in his ear: ‘America is under attack.’ Bush decides to stay put; he said later: ‘If I stormed out hastily, it would scare the children and send ripples of panic throughout the country.’

Press Secretary Ari Fleischer stands in front of the media and holds up a sign saying: ‘Don’t say anything yet.’ The President sits for seven minutes as the children read out loud: ‘The girl had a pet goat. She liked to go running with her pet goat . . .’

Pictured: Shocked crowds of people stare up in horror at the World Trade Center which is burning after two planes hit the twin towers

Pictured: Shocked crowds of people stare up in horror at the World Trade Center which is burning after two planes hit the twin towers9.10am: Equity trader Stephen Mulderry has made it to the roof of the South Tower but the door is locked. He and other colleagues take shelter in a conference room on the 88th floor; they have one phone between them. Stephen calls his brother Peter who asks: ‘Are you sure there’s no way out of that room?’

‘No . . . we’ve tried everything. We’re just going to wait for the firemen. But it’s a long way for them to come.’

Stephen then passes the phone to colleague Rick Thorpe, who calls his wife, Linda. But possibly because of the smoke he can’t speak. All she can hear are people coughing and a man screaming. A voice says: ‘It’s OK. It’ll be OK.’

9.15am: On Floor 78 of the South Tower, a wing of United Flight 175 has caused carnage to a large ‘sky lobby’ that links the upper and lower elevators. When the plane hit, there were already more than 200 people there waiting to evacuate.

Equities trader Welles Crowther, 24, appears, looking for a fire extinguisher, his mouth and nose covered by a red bandana. He’s carried one since childhood. He points to the stairs and shouts: ‘Anyone who can get up and walk, get up and walk now! Anyone who can help others, find someone who needs help and then head down . . .’

Pictured: A firefighter walks away from Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, covered in ash

Pictured: A firefighter walks away from Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, covered in ash

9.16am: In Washington a call is put through to Ted Olson, the solicitor general. It is his wife, Barbara, on board Flight 77 — he had thought she was safe. They say they love each other and Ted tells Barbara about the planes crashing into the World Trade Centre. She remains calm. Ted recalled: ‘I reassured her that everything was going to be OK. I was pretty sure that everything was not going to be OK.’

9.20am: At the Emma Booker Elementary School President Bush delivers a hastily written statement: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a difficult day for America. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Centre in an apparent attack on our country.’ The parents and community leaders present gasp. ‘Terrorism against our nation will not stand.’

9.24am: Melodie Homer is at home in New Jersey watching TV footage from New York. Concerned, she texts her husband LeRoy, the co-pilot on United 93, asking him if he’s all right.

Immediately after, LeRoy and the captain, Jason Dahl, receive a message from a United Airlines despatcher: ‘BEWARE ANY COCKPIT INTRUSION. TWO AIRCRAFT IN NY, HIT TRADE CENTRE BUILDS.’ Dahl asks him to confirm the message. LeRoy never gets a chance to reply to his wife.

9.28am: Tall buildings across New York and the United States are starting to be evacuated, including the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument and the Trans-america pyramid in San Francisco. Panic is spreading — what will be the next target?

9.28am: Tall buildings across New York and the United States are starting to be evacuated, including the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument and the Trans-america pyramid in San Francisco. Panic is spreading — what will be the next target?

9.25am: People are still jumping from the Towers. FBI agent Wesley Wong looks up and sees a man falling. ‘I saw a fellow spread-eagle, coming out of the sky. He had on navy-blue pants, a white shirt and a tie. Dark hair. I couldn’t believe what I saw.’

Firefighters Paul Conlon and Daniel Suhr begin a 200-yard dash to the command post at the base of the South Tower. Because there are people falling around them, Daniel says: ‘Let’s make this quick’. Halfway there, he is hit by a body. Daniel Suhr is the first firefighter to die.

9.28am: On Flight 93, all four hijackers storm the cockpit, and air traffic control can hear the sound of a struggle over the radio; LeRoy Homer shouts desperately: ‘Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!’ Then the radio goes quiet for 35 seconds, then another frantic transmission: ‘Hey! Get out of here! Get out of here! Get out of here!’

Tall buildings across New York and the United States are starting to be evacuated, including the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument and the Trans-america pyramid in San Francisco. Panic is spreading — what will be the next target?

  • Jonathan Mayo is the author of Titanic: Minute By Minute (Short Books, £8.99).
George Bush reveals the moment he found out Air Force 1 was a target
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