Swiss eyewitness recalls horrors of September 11

Bandelier saw gaping holes where the Twin Towers once stood swissinfo.ch

Swiss financial consultant Roland Bandelier was there when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were hit.

This content was published on September 11, 2002 - 12:00

A year on, he tells swissinfo that September 11 has changed the perceptions of New Yorkers.

Bandelier has been working in New York for 26 years. Now an independent financial consultant, he was working for Standard Chartered Bank a year ago.

"It seems like yesterday," he says, as he recalls that sunny autumnal day. Bandelier worked at 7, World Trade Center, a smaller building alongside the celebrated Twin Towers, which also collapsed on September 11

"I remember getting to my office at 8.41. I had just switched on my computer when there was a huge explosion," he says.

Gaping hole

He looked out of his office window to see a "gaping hole" in the side of the North Tower.

He also saw people leaping from the building in horrifying detail.

At first it seemed a tragic accident. But, as he phoned his wife to tell her he was unhurt, he saw the second plane crash into the South Tower.

"Then we knew it wasn't an accident, that it was intentional," he says. His building was evacuated, but even then, he says, "we didn't think we wouldn't be returning."

While Bandelier has coped well with the traumas of what is now called "9/11", many of his staff have struggled to come to terms with it.

"There are people who are still afraid by the sound of an aircraft," he says.

But, he tells swissinfo, if any good has come out of the tragedy, it is that New Yorkers have learned to appreciate life more and be less materialistic.

Changed perceptions

"There is a different perception of what is important," he says.

And that is true not only of individuals and society, but also corporations.

Bandelier says they have started to give greater consideration to the needs of their employees, and have even lent a helping hand to business rivals: the Swiss bank UBS offered Standard Chartered office space to help it get back on its feet.

"It was amazing how the financial community responded," says Bandelier. "But even today there are banks that are struggling to get back to normal."

He has been back a number of times to what is now dubbed "Ground Zero" and is opposed to the idea of turning the whole area over to a memorial for the victims.

But this adopted New Yorker feels as though an essential part of his city has been lost.

"It is a strange feeling. There are 16 acres and it's an empty space. I sometimes look up expecting to see the towers. They were more than just office space. They were symbols of New York."

swissinfo, Roy Probert in New York

September 11

More than 3,000 people died in the September 11 attacks.
Two Swiss citizens lost their lives in New York.
Switzerland's UBS bank lost a number of its employees.
An estimated 20,000 Swiss live in the Tri-State area.

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Twin towers summary

Swiss financial consultant Roland Bandelier was working next door to the World Trade Center and witnessed the September 11 terrorist attack.

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