Widely regarded a tragedy that changed the world forever, the September 11 terror attacks saw four al-Qaida terrorists hijack four planes and kill almost 3,000 people.
The attack in New York, as well as two other attacks in Virginia and Pennsylvania a short time later, sent shockwaves around the world with multiple celebrities left fearing for loved ones and colleagues.
In fact, some stars were scheduled to be on the planes and others were meant to be in the Twin Towers when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were ploughed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center.
As survivor stories began to filter out in the days after the attacks, fans were shocked to learn how close of their favorite entertainers had been to the tragic scenes.
We take a look back at some of the famous names that were personally affected by the harrowing events.
Pete Davidson suffered a personal loss in the terror attack, with his dad among those fighting the blaze.
The NYC firefighter died when the comedian was just seven-years-old, with Pete later getting his badge number, 8418, tattooed on his arm in tribute.
He is hosting a comedy show on September 12, alongside Jon Stewart and a string of other huge names, to raise money for 9/11 charities.
Like many who were in New York that morning, Lady Gaga remembers every single second of her day.
The Bad Romance singer was a teenager at the time, and stood on the roof of her high school watching the atrocities, alongside her classmates.
Detailing her experience to MTV News a decade later, she said: ‘I was at school with my girlfriends. I just remember that the history teachers had us all piled into one room and had a television on and none of us believed it was happening.
‘So we didn’t believe it, so we ran up to the roof and I just remember we got up to the roof, and one tower had already fallen and we all watched the second tower fall all together. [My school] was miles and miles away, but the sky that hovered above us was jet black.’
The late singer could have been among the thousands killed if it hadn’t been for a late night call with his mother.
The King of Pop had been due to attend a meeting at the top of one of the towers the morning of the attacks, however he overslept due to the phone call with mother, Katherine and sister Rebbie.
In his biography, You Are Not Alone: Michael: Through a Brother’s Eyes, Jermaine Jackson wrote: ‘Thankfully, none of us had had a clue that Michael was due at a meeting that morning at the top of one of the Twin Towers.
‘We only discovered this when Mother phoned his hotel to make sure he was okay. She, Rebbie [Jackson] and a few others had left him there around 3am.’
‘”Mother, I’m okay, thanks to you,” he told her. “You kept me up talking so late that I overslept and missed my appointment.”‘
Jackson died eight years later after suffering a cardiac arrest brought on by a prescription pill overdose.
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
The Duchess of York was in NYC at the time, working from her office on the 101st floor of the North Tower at 1 World Trade Center.
On that fateful morning, she was filiming an interview on Good Morning at another location.
The royal was just minutes away from arriving back at the Chances for Children offices when the attack took place. Thankfully, none of her employees were killed.
In 2018, she reflected on the impact of her experience as she told Hello! magazine: ‘I take every minute as a blessing, I really do, and I really work hard at it. Because the minute you look too far forward, then you’re missing now. The minute you look back… you can’t go back. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.’
Paul McCartney was in New York on the morning of September 11, and was on the runway at JFK airport and waiting to take off, when he saw the Twin Towers on fire from his plane window.
‘Out of the window on the right hand side of the airplane, you could see the Twin Towers. First there was a plume of smoke and then there was a second,’ the Beatles legend recalled on the release of The Love We Make, a documentary on his Concert For New York City gig, in honour of victims.
‘I said that’s an optical illusion. It’s probably just some sort of little fire. Finally the steward came over to me and said, “Look, something serious has happened in New York and we’ve got to get you out of here.”
‘I ended up in Long Island watching it on TV, wanting to go into New York, but nobody was allowed back in.’
Gwyneth Paltrow inadvertently managed to save the life of an office worker who worked in the World Trade Center on that fateful day, and had no idea until much later.
The Marvel star came across Lara Lundstrom Clarke in the morning, who was left starstruck over their chance meeting and took a moment to gather herself over the celeb spot – but was delayed enough to miss her train to work.
If they hadn’t had the encounter, she would have been on the 77th floor of the south tower when the plane crashed into it.
Speaking to Reuters of their meet, Paltrow said: ’It was an extraordinary story and all I could think about is all of the people who had experiences like that that day, but aren’t able to reach out because it wasn’t a recognisable person.
‘She saw it was me so she was able to get me a message, but I think a lot of fates were changed that day obviously and I am very humbly happy to be a part in her story.’
Mark Wahlberg also had a lucky escape, as he was booked to fly to New York on the flight that crashed into the north tower, before he changed his mind at the very last minute.
Instead of going to New York, the Departed star and his friends travelled to Toronto to attend a film festival.
However, he later came under fire for comments he made on the attacks, when he appeared to suggest he could have stopped the terrorists if he had been on board.‘If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did,’ he told Men’s Journal.
‘There would have been a lot of blood in that first class cabin and then me saying, “Okay, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’
Wahlberg was forced to apologise over his comments after a widow of a 9/11 victim branded his words ‘disrespectful’.
‘To speculate about such a situation is ridiculous to begin with, and to suggest I would have done anything differently than the passengers on that plane was irresponsible,’ he said. ‘I deeply apologise to the families of the victims that my answer came off as insensitive, it was certainly not my intention.’
Seth had been due to board the same American Airlines Flight as his friend, Mark Wahlberg, but missed the flight.
The Family Guy creator was sleeping off his hangover while waiting for a different flight when he woke up to the panicked reactions of others who had watched the first plane hit the tower from the airport.
As the second plane hit, the airline confirmed which flights had been taken over by the terrorists, at which point Seth realized that the flight he missed had crashed into the north tower.
The Ted creator noted: ‘I was booked on that flight and I was drinking the night before and hung over and I missed the plane by about 10 minutes. It was a very close call for me … alcohol is our friend. I think that’s the moral of that story.’
He later stated: ‘After the fact it was sobering, but people have a lot of close calls; you’re crossing the street and you almost get hit by a car… This one just happened to be related to something massive. I really can’t let it affect me because I’m a comedy writer. I have to put that in the back of my head.’
Months after the attacks, Rob Lowe discovered he had been on a flight with several men who planned 9/11.
The flight had been after he taped an episode of The West Wing and had been a normal journey so the actor was stunned to receive a notice in the mail that 9/11 plotter, Zacarias Moussaoui, wanted him to be part of the deposition at Moussaoui’s trial.
Turns out the actor had been sat next to Moussaoui during a test run on their flight.
Moussaoui wasn’t one of the actual hijackers on Sept. 11, but was later captured and sentenced to life for his role in planning the attacks.
Singer Patti Austin was supposed to be on the United Flight 93, which was taken over by passengers who managed to stop the hijackers plans but still died.
The grammy winner’s mother had a stroke in San Francisco so she was forced to reschedule her flight for a day earlier.
‘I felt that my life had been saved for some specific reason … I have yet to figure that out, but I do a lot of charity work now, which I was doing before, but I do a lot more,’ she lated explained.
Austin recalled how her manager broke the news of her near miss: ‘”Remember, you were supposed to go to the second day of the show, and you had get out first thing in the morning, and that was the only thing that left early enough in the morning to get you back into San Francisco in time to be with your mom,” and I completely lost it.’
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro was one of the many stars who watched the horrors unfold straight from their windows.
The native New Yorker explained: ‘I left a meeting right after they hit the World Trade Center. I went to my apartment, which looks south, and I watched it out my window. I could see the line of fire across the North Tower. I had my binoculars and a video camera – though I didn’t want to video it.
‘I saw a few people jump. Then I saw the South Tower go. It was so unreal, I had to confirm it by immediately looking at the television screen. CNN was on. That was the only way to make it real. Like my son said: “It was like watching the moon fall.”‘
The Fargo star had worked as a firefighter in the Eighties, and made his way to the scenes to help rescue efforts for five days.
He worked 12-hour shifts for several days in search of survivors and said at the time: ‘It was a privilege to be able to do it. It was great to connect with the firehouse I used to work with and with some of the guys I worked alongside.
‘And it was enormously helpful for me because while I was working, I didn’t really think about it as much, feel it as much.’
In a recent interview with Mark Maron, he stated: ‘I was privileged enough to have access to the site and be in the thick of it, and just experience the humanity of what was going on there.’
When the podcast host asked if he had experienced any long-term health issues or PTSD, Buscemi replied: ‘I haven’t experienced any health issues, and I get myself checked out, but definitely…. Post traumatic stress? Absolutely.
‘I was only there for like five days, but when I stopped going and tried to just live my life again, it was really, really hard. I was depressed, I was anxious, I couldn’t make a simple decision. All those things. It’s still with me. There are times when I talk about 9/11 and I’m right back there. I start to get choked up and I realise, ah, this is still a big part of me.’
Chef Michael Lomonaco
Chef Michael Lomonaco’s poor eyesight saved him that day.
Known for overseeing three popular Manhattan restaurants, including the famous Windows of the World restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors of 1 World Trade, he had an appointment to get his glasses repaired at noon that day in the lobby.
He decided to see if he could get them repaired earlier instead and was heading back up towards the restaurant, he heard the rumble of the attack.
The chef later recalled: ‘It was a feeling like I’ve never felt before. I couldn’t really hear anything, but this rumble was unusual. Later I would realize it was the impact of the first plane.’
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