9/11: “It was a miracle that I survived” – The story of a man from North Yorkshire

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A man from North Yorkshire who was caught in “doomsday scenes” at the base of the Twin Towers on September 11 today revealed how the events of that day changed him forever.

Paul Berriff, 75, spoke on the 20th anniversary of the day that shook the world.

He revealed that he only survived the World Trade Center collapse by a “miracle.”

And how the horrific events in New York two decades ago affected him, claiming he’s no longer stressed out about life because “you just don’t know what can happen.”

Paul, documentary filmmaker and fine art photographer, was working in New York in 2001 on a series for the American television network, Animal Planet, in the office of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruetly to Animals) when he, his Sound recordist Lou Lou Machin and assistant producer Becky Colleen heard for the first time that a plane had struck the towers. They assumed it was a small plane that often flew over the city.

Paul, who was 55 at the time, said: specs coming out of towers that were people jumping from upper floors.

“After a quarter of an hour of filming at the foot of the south tower, I heard a loud explosion. The south tower collapsed like an umbrella of debris descending from 420 meters high, I could hear the firefighters screaming for everyone to run.

“I heard a terrible roar like a dozen jumbo jets. I rotated the camera and ran 100 feet, then everything went black, the blackest I’ve ever seen, and sound like a giant fag.

York Press: Paul Berriff interviews Ground Zero

Paul, from Northallerton, lay unconscious for 28 minutes and woke up to “an apocalyptic scene” – a street littered with broken cars leaning over trees. He said it looked like someone had knocked over a child’s toy box and covered everything in debris, with parts of the Twin Towers embedded in the road – as well as Lou Lou’s shattered sound mixer.

“As the ashes went down everything looked monochrome, I was very hot and struggling to breathe as my mouth was full of debris and mushy stuff and I used my fingers to try to do it. go out.”

He crawled to his apartment, following the cars with his hands as his visibility was reduced, and he found Lou Lou and Becky – Lou Lou had been saved by a firefighter and Becky had taken refuge in a post office .

Paul’s hair was matted with blood, with a three-inch gash on the back of his head, and he was rushed to hospital for treatment in the decontamination unit – luckily the injury hadn’t penetrated his skull.

York Press: a still from Paul's film on the 9/11 attack

“The nurses had cut my clothes off, I sat in a white paper suit eating a roast with Yorkshire puddings in the hospital and my wife came to get me, watching the smoke billowing. still from the tower. ”

Paul added, “It depended on how you ran if you survived. I think you shouldn’t take life for granted. I am much more relaxed, I am never stressed. You just don’t know what can happen. I’m more wary of things because something could happen in a flash.

His footage was incorporated into ITV’s documentary ‘9/11: The Firefighters’ story, produced a year after the attack.


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