New York Flemings experienced 9/11 at close quarters

The 9/11 attacks made an impression on most people who witnessed them at close quarters.  So too on Jacqueline, Marc and Katelijne, three Flemings, who were in New York on that day in 2001.

Katelijne De Backer (photo top) went to live in New York in 1997, four years before the attacks.  For many years she worked in the world of the arts organising art fairs.  At the time of the attacks she lived on Upper West Side and had her office in Chelsea, a few neighbourhoods north of the World Trade Center.

For quite a while after the attacks, she was unable to visit Ground Zero, the site where once the Twin Towers stood. “When people asked me to accompany them there and I went along, I would burst out in tears.  It still gives me goose bumps when I think of the moment the second plane flew into the tower.”

On that fateful day Marc Van Cauwenbergh stepped out of the subway: “Everybody was looking up” he told VRT’s US correspondent Björn Soenens.

Marc has been living in New York for thirty years now.  For months after the attacks he was unable to enter his house on Broadway because of the rubble still in the street.  He had studied art at the Pratt Institute and stayed on.  He was working as an artist and designer and regularly exhibited his works.

Reflecting on the moment he came out of the subway he says: “I first thought there was a serious fire.  At work I saw the second plane hit the tower.  It was a beautiful, sunny September day that turned into one of tragedy and despondency”.

Jacqueline Goossens has been living in New York for 41 years.  She worked as a reporter and columnist, published several books as well as columns in the Flemish weekly Knack.  Today, if there are any tourists, she works as a tourist guide.

She lives in Staten Island and after the attacks thousands of people took the ferry there from Manhattan.

“The first ship with 6,000 people on board I will never forget” she told VRT’s Björn Soenens. “People covered in dust, without shoes, with one shoe, bloody…”

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