19 minutes reading time (3753 words)

Trapped in Turkey When The Twin Towers Were Hit: A Trader's Perspective on 9/11's Unforgettable Tragedy

twin towers

My name is Carol Harmer, and this is my story of 9/11.


As a Financial trader I zoomed around Europe quite a bit, mainly Geneva, Zurich, Paris (although 3 x was enough in Paris). Earlier in the mid 80s I was lucky enough to go to New York and Chicago. I had worked in the Twin Towers and Wall Street. Not for long, but long enough to get a feel for how different the financial markets were from London where I was based.

I loved both cities, and was offered jobs in both. As a single Mum of 2, who was quite young at the time, the offers were tempting, very, very tempting. But I felt I could not drag my 2 young sons across the globe away from all that they knew.

However, after being away in the US for 12 weeks it was time to head home. I had met every one I needed to meet. At least in London when I called in orders I knew what the guys at the other end of the phone looked like. Im guessing I probably called New York and CBOT ( Chicago Board of Trade) 20/30 times a day. So the experience was good. 

I was there in the days before internet, so I worked in a very different world compared to today. When in New York, I met an elderly (as I thought then) Oil trader who did all his own charts on all the various Oil markets, of which there were many. He said to me that there was a massive oil field under the Arctic but no one could drill because the ice was so thick. He was adamant that one day the "leaders" of the world would find a way to drill into this massive oil field and said it would keep the world in Oil for at least another 400 years. 

OK, I was young, he was around 58. I heard what he said, and it intrigued me. What he also said to me was that it wouldn't be in his lifetime, but maybe in mine that "leaders" of the world would start saying that the planet was getting warmer, and that when I heard this, I should remember his words. He also thought that it would come from the International Space station. OK. I am bored now. I needed to go meet friends who were not so whacko in New York.

The Twin Towers were majestic across the New York skyline, it was like a city within a city. There were thousands of people milling about, always busy, always rushing. New Yorkers are brash, loud, take no shit from anyone and I loved it there. It was my kind of town. I was also in Awe of the Twin Towers with their multitude of shops, restaurants, hair salons, anything you could imagine or needed was there. You didn't have to go any where during the day.

Soon it was time to leave. Too soon for me, but I had responsibilities and I also loved my job in London. So it was bye bye New York City.

Being back in London was great, particularly as I now had a handle on who was who when dealing with New York. So many friends made, which made my job more exciting as not only could I discuss it on the trading floor, I could talk to my new friends in New York who were no longer just a name at the other end of the line.

Approximately 10 years later, various countries went to the Arctic with flags to stake their claim. "On what" I thought to myself, a piece of Ice? But ultimately, that's what they did. Being an investigative trader I decided to put Oil on my radar and kept an eye out for what was happening in the Arctic.

There was a "International Science Station" there now. I wasn't buying it, but then I had always been a contrarian trader, and human being, so trading and myself got along well. I had 1/10th of my eye on what was happening there, and frankly you couldn't find out much back then because there was no internet. Hey we actually relied on talking, how weird!

It was well into the 90s that I first heard the words Global warming. Unlike 90% of the population my ears pricked up for a totally different reason. The International Space station was by then alive and kicking and doing "Scientific Work". The old Oil Trader was long gone by that point. If only I had taken more notice of his charts and geological reports. Lesson learned.

I had remarried and split up by this time. Pressure of work does not bode well for a relationship. especially if the wife is the only breadwinner and works 18hrs a day.

In 1996 I left the Corporate world of Banking and went back to the London International Futures Exchange. LIFFE for short, the place where I had started off back in 1982. I wanted to trade my own money. My children were older, I could please myself really now. I didnt have to provide for them on a daily basis.

However my sons, especially my eldest, remained in contact with their stepfather. My Eldest son got married in August 2000. He had invited my husband, and his Romanian girlfriend (an ex hooker). I wasn't impressed, but it wasn't my wedding. I had not seen my husband in 7 years. I have no idea why we didn't get divorced, but we didn't. I wasn't phased though because I had just been offered a year-long contract in New York to work on another start up technical trading department. I was due to leave Feb 1st 2001. I had no ties by this time and was so excited about going back to New York. I would be based in the North Tower on the 8th floor. I had to double check because being afraid of heights, there was no way I could work on the 90th no matter how much they offered me. I had to fly obviously, but it was worth it as it was a lucrative job and as it turned out, Valium was a godsend for me. 

Going back to my son's wedding, my husband was different, and I knew the feelings were still there. Our eyes met, and that was that. We got back together that night and god only knows what happened to the Romanian Prostitute, but she wasnt my problem.

My son and wife told us they were expecting their first child in late March. There was no way I was going to miss my first grandchild. I had missed enough of my children growing up. So I apologised to the bank in question. I did however set them up with a really close friend of mine who I knew was really good at what they did. The bank accepted that.

So true love reigned. I had not flown since 1995/96. In 2001 my husband suggested we have a holiday somewhere. I had always wanted to go to Turkey so we booked a trip there through my friend who was a travel agent. We'd decided on Marmaris, landing at Dalaman airport and a coach to the resort.

I had always been a nervous flyer and had decided after a near miss upon landing once, that I would never fly again. All my friends and work colleagues knew my fear of flying, so they were truly surprised at my booking Turkey as a destination, but it just sounded so romantic!

The day we were leaving on September 10th I was so nervous. I kept being sick. We got to the airport. Our flight wasn't until later on and we were due to arrive in Dalaman at 3.00am on September 11th.

On the plane I wanted to scream, but instead remained silent. After takeoff, about an hour into the flight a stewardess asked me to follow her. My husband had somehow arranged for me to go into the cockpit. So off I went, and I don't know what I expected, but it certainly wasn't the pilots sitting there, no hands on anything and drinking coffee. I had only ever looked out of a passenger window. This was like something out of Star Trek. I could see everything. 

The Pilot and the Co pilot explained the auto pilot system to me. I was not impressed. Computers were my thing before I was a trader and so was well aware how easily they could go wrong. I didn't say this to the pilots. They were confident and I relaxed. I had a coffee with them and we chatted. I felt much better now knowing they were in charge of this plane. I headed back to my seat feeling so much better. 

We arrived at our destination airport on time, then after a coach journey, arrived at Marmaris. I had visions of the beautiful harbour, I imagined it would be such a relaxing atmosphere at that time of year. I was so excited and it felt like it was a second honeymoon for us.

The coach journey was worse than the flight to be fair. We arrived at the hotel and went straight to bed. I was so excited about the next day. I had made sure that the trading floor knew that the S&P 500 FTSE, well infact, all stock markets were going to trade lower. I also made sure I had my mobile phone with me, but only to be used if there were any problems or in the case of an emergency. Gold was at that point starting to go higher. All my clients knew where I thought that market was going, and where I was positioned myself.

We didn't wake up till late, I think we missed breakfast and lunch. We got showered, then pondered where we should go on our first magical evening together in this special place I'd wanted to visit for over 10 years. We wandered down into reception.

The TV was on and at first I thought it was a Mad Max film, then did a double take. NO! It couldn't be! That could not possibly be the Twin Towers! My knees buckled. I couldn't breathe. My brain kept screaming NO NO NO! What about all my friends who worked there! I went into shock. I didnt realise I was lying on the floor until the manager and my husband were trying to get brandy down me. I could hear howling. Where was that coming from? Then I realised it was me. I couldn't think, couldn't breathe, couldn't comprehend what was goin on. It was like my brain had shut down. All I could hear was howling. 

My friends, my guys I talked to 20 or more times a day, every day, since 1983. I remember people trying to lift me up. Why? Why were they doing that? Next I was being laid on a settee - still howling, being given brandy, pushing them away, asking them to leave me alone, wanting to talk, but nothing coming out. My eyes were still fixed on the massive TV screen watching it all unfold, people jumping. By then I must have stopped howling. I still couldn't talk. I tried to stand. I failed the first time. but I tried again. I made my way to the TV screen, hearing all these foreign voices, my husband holding my arm. 

I recall the tears of the people around me. I remember I was silently crying, no sound, just tears streaming down my face. Next I started screaming, just screaming and screaming. My God the TV just kept showing the unfolding events over and over. 

Then another thought. My son. My son worked in Canary Wharf. My old bank was in Canary Wharf. My friends were in Canary Wharf. what if Canary Wharf was destroyed as well. I turned on my mobile. There were 100s of messages. I tried to ring my son. No answer. I tried to ring my friends in Canary Wharf. No answer. For some bizarre reason I tried to ring my friend I had sent to the Towers in place of myself. No answer.

I tried to stay standing. I really did. But I failed. Next thing a doctor was called. I didn't know that at the time. I just knew I couldn't stay upright and was paralysed. I didn't know. I just knew I wanted to be on the floor, curled up into a ball. 

Sept 11th 2001 was supposed to be the first day of our 2nd honeymoon and instead all my friends are dead. What kept going over and over in my head was that no one could have got out of that. Surely all 40,000 people that worked there when I did must have perished. My Son, My friends in Canary Wharf, were they dead as well? I remember this man coming and kneeling next to me. He told me things would be OK. He said the injection he was giving me would make me feel better. Better? BETTER? how would an injection make me feel better! I don't remember anything more after that.

I must have woken up about 3am the following morning. I left the bedroom and headed down to reception. There was a lady standing at the desk, she turned and looked at me and asked if I was Carol. I nodded. She said come with me. Who was she? and why was I following her? We went to the back of the hotel and she had a prayer room. I just looked at her. did she really expect me to pray. To who? But she was gentle and she said "I am a Muslim, you are a Christian, at the moment none of that matters. we are 2 people here who just need to be quiet and pray for those who have died". So I followed her, knelt down and closed my eyes and prayed for the first time in my life, not for me, but for the people of the Twin Towers and the people of New York. After spending time working there I knew this would haunt every single person in New York and in America, but New York would be hurting like never before in its history.

Afterwards, I just wanted to go home, back to the UK. I wanted out of Turkey, but there were no flights. nothing was moving. I'd never given a Muslim country a thought before. I'd never even thought about the fact that Turkey was Muslim. I just thought of Turkey as being a holiday destination I wanted to go to. Now I wanted out, but there was nowhere to go, no escape, no flights to anywhere.

The lady who had taken me to pray was the hotel owner. She advised us that it would be safer if we stayed in the hotel complex. It had 2 swimming pools and its own beach, plus 2 really good restaurants. Not that I wanted to eat or drink anything. It was surreal. The people continued to watch the TV playing the events over and over. There was no escaping it, it was everywhere, at the pool, in the bars and restaurants - everywhere! 

The chemists in Turkey sold Valium large dosage, so the doctor suggested to my husband for the next few days to keep me part-sedated. In the days that followed, and seeing the Towers fall I had convinced myself that no one had survived. The would have had an evacuation protocol like the one we had in Canary Wharf, but the advice would have been to stay on your floor, that help will come to you. The towers were different. Both North and South Towers had over 100 floors. The lifts operated at different speed. 

I can't remember exactly how many floors the Twin Towers had, but it was over 100. Maybe 105, 110. All floors were full of people, teaming with life. The floors above where the planes hit were doomed. no one could survive that. I knew the lifts would stop, electricity would stop. I kept thinking about whether the generators would kick in, whether people would actually stay on their floors as advised. How on earth could they escape what we witnessed? It was probably best I did take the Valium for those first few days to switch my mind off. My brain works in overdrive normally. if I had not taken Valium I would have had a burnt out brain. 

It was the first time in my life I had ever experienced Hate. I could taste it. I could smell it. I hated those terrorists with every fibre of my body. I could imagine the terror those trapped in the Towers must have felt. No way out for many, their only options were to jump or perish in the fire.

I knew the US had a Nato base in Turkey. After 2 or 3 days that kicked in to action. Jet fighter planes were going over every few minutes. You could look over at Marmaris harbour and all the pleasure boats in the brochure were replaced by Warships. It was surreal. Still to, was the non-stop 24hr TV coverage of the Towers burning and collapsing. 

On the 4th day we decided to go to another restaurant along the beach. We were spat at. Called names we didn't understand. We carried on and in this bar along the beach were posters of Bin Laden. The Turkish men were kissing them. We fled before we had a chance to finish our cofffee. I was sobbing. What on earth has Turkey got to do with Bin Laden? I didn't understand and was so confused. 

As it turned out, every male adult over the age of 18 can be called for war if needed. So that was why we were being spat at by the women. They were mothers, grandmothers, whose young men were called up for war. So there was war? Nothing was said about war. All we saw on the TV was Bush and Blair. no other leaders, just them two. So was it now a war with the US and UK united against who? Surely not Turkey? Was it Saudi Arabia? Who exactly were we at war with?

Finally after 4 days I found out Canary Wharf had been evacuated and thankfully never touched. They were all safe. My friend in New York messaged me saying he was safe. He said it was hell, but he was safe. I just sobbed, again. This time in gratitude. I still didn't know how many were dead in New York. It was impossible to know at the time, but stories were emerging from New York claiming that the majority of people had escaped. They had not listened to protocol and had walked down the stairs instead, assisted by New York Fire Department (NYFD) and New York Police Department (NYPD) many of whom died re-entering the towers trying to rescue more people.

In Turkey planes had resumed their flights, mainly to get their citizens out of Turkey - except for the UK. JMC didn't do that and were still flying passengers into Turkey and were taking people out who had been stranded. Well that wasn't us. We arrived on 9/11. The Rep did not have a clue. Not a clue about what was going on, except to say that all pilots had been trained to fly in war zones. Comforting! I wanted out.  We looked at hiring a car with a view to driving after getting a boat to Greece. It was never going to work. So we were basically stranded. It turned out to be a holiday destination for Brits because no other country was willing to fly people into Turkey.

I answered 100s of messages from friends and family and work colleagues who knew I had not flown for years. They were aware of the irony that we'd picked September 10th to holiday in Turkey, a muslim country with a Nato base. 

After being spat at, we decided to take the hotel owner's advice to stay within the complex and not venture out. The calls for prayer time that usually happened twice a day, were now every hour, to us it felt like they were every 5 minutes, obviously they wern't. 

The staff and the owners couldn't have been nicer. The lovely lady owner said to me that she understood how much I thought I hated all muslims, but that they really were not like that and she despised what these terrorists had done as much as the next man. She went on to say that those Turkish displaying Bin Laden posters in their bars were radicals and she was not like them. So I began to relax. Then I got a phone call from a friend in Chicago saying the whole of Cater Allen Stock company had been wiped out. All of them. No one survived who was there that day. Do you become immune when seeing such trauma. I know I cried over the loss of the Cater Allen team, but not in the same gut wrenching, howling or sobbing way I experienced on September 11th.

There wasn't much to do after that. I just wanted to go home. The second week it picked up a bit. The TVs, although still on in certain places in the complex, were not in your face like that first week. Trips had started again, but I wasn't in the mood to have a good time. I remember looking at people on holiday laughing,  joking, playing in the pool, and I was inwardly screaming "don't you know there at 1000s dead in New York, don't you care?". "How can you be laughing and joking when all hell has appeared before you". People baffle me.

We then heard that on the night we were due to fly home 2 weeks after the Towers the US had put a no fly zone in place. So did that mean we were stuck? No, we were assured that planes who should be in the air would be ok, it was for planes that shouldn't be in the air and told Nato fighter jets were patrolling.

Then Iraq started being mentioned. Iraq? We were next to Iraq! What was happening in Iraq? What was going on? We could't get answers from anyone. The only place I could get answers was from friends in the city and Canary Wharf saying the US thought Iraq was involved as well. So I'm thinking ground to air missiles. That started me off again. To say it was the holiday from hell was an understatement.

Finally 2 weeks after landing, we were out on our way back home. 2 weeks, how can someone change so much in 2 weeks. You do. I didn't hate anymore. I felt nothing for those that did this. Just nothing. My heart ached for the victims of the Towers. My heart ached for the people of New York and for their Fire and Police departments. I also mourned the loss of those Towers that rose so majestically in the New York skyline. New York would never be the same without those Towers. 

I had dealt with New York for twenty years by that point. Worked beside them in the City of London. worked in New York beside them. I knew the people of New York were tough and although broken now, they would rise up again. They would once more be the New Yorkers I loved, in the city I loved. I also knew that New York now had a scar and that every night and every morning, those that looked over the New York skyline would feel that loss until the day they died.

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Comments 4

YourSay on Wednesday, 30 August 2023 07:44

Like most people, I can remember exactly where I was that day. I can relay every single moment like it happened yesterday. It felt like the end of the world. I recall people here in the UK being in blind panic believing we were under attack too. We were in a large store late afternoon and a man was charging around saying the planes are heading here. People were racing all over the place. I just stood there thinking "this is it" waiting for the impact to hit. I thought the man had information that the store was about to be hit. There was absolutely no logic that day!

Heart goes out to you for what you experienced. Cannot imagine what it must have been like to not know how your family, friends and colleagues were, whethey they survived. Or to be spat at by the locals and worst, not being able to escape and go home! It was good that the friend you nominated survived!

Like most people, I can remember exactly where I was that day. I can relay every single moment like it happened yesterday. It felt like the end of the world. I recall people here in the UK being in blind panic believing we were under attack too. We were in a large store late afternoon and a man was charging around saying the planes are heading here. People were racing all over the place. I just stood there thinking "this is it" waiting for the impact to hit. I thought the man had information that the store was about to be hit. There was absolutely no logic that day! Heart goes out to you for what you experienced. Cannot imagine what it must have been like to not know how your family, friends and colleagues were, whethey they survived. Or to be spat at by the locals and worst, not being able to escape and go home! It was good that the friend you nominated survived!
Carol Harmer on Monday, 11 September 2023 22:14

22 years ago today, yet I remember it like it was yesterday sadly

22 years ago today, yet I remember it like it was yesterday sadly
Guest - Paddy on Thursday, 07 September 2023 17:16

Same here remember exactly where and what I was doing when it all kicked off. We were all hooked to the TV in our office. All work stopped people were in stunned silence watching things unfold. There was a lot of panic it truly did feel like the world as we knew it was about to end that day.

I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must have been for you and to have lost so many friends and colleagues! The priest at our local church lost his son who was only in his 20s. He was in the first tower that was struck. Only days away from the anniversary of the day. The families of those lost will probably never find peace

Same here remember exactly where and what I was doing when it all kicked off. We were all hooked to the TV in our office. All work stopped people were in stunned silence watching things unfold. There was a lot of panic it truly did feel like the world as we knew it was about to end that day. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must have been for you and to have lost so many friends and colleagues! The priest at our local church lost his son who was only in his 20s. He was in the first tower that was struck. Only days away from the anniversary of the day. The families of those lost will probably never find peace
Carol Harmer on Monday, 11 September 2023 22:17

I doubt they will....I think it goes deeper though...I think every New Yorker will never forget that day...because the reminder us those majestic Towers dominating the NY skyline are gone....and NY will never be the same xx

I doubt they will....I think it goes deeper though...I think every New Yorker will never forget that day...because the reminder us those majestic Towers dominating the NY skyline are gone....and NY will never be the same xx
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