A man from Dalmellington who worked with American Airlines in the US during the 9/11 attacks has shared his experience of the day that changed the world forever.

This week marks the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when 19 men hijacked four commercial airplanes and travelled towards major US landmarks, killing 2,977 people in a series of horrifying attacks.

At the time, Tommy Verner was working as a project manager consultant with American Airlines. Although based in Dallas, he soon found himself at the centre of one of the most dramatic and shocking events to have occurred in in recent history.

He told the Chronicle his recollection of that day.

Tommy, 66, said: "I applied for a job with an IT consultancy group in the States and that was how I came to be here. Our company's head office was in Dallas, Texas and I have been here since. When 9/11 happened I was a project manager consultant rebuilding their website - AA.com. American Airlines head office is just south of the DFW airport - one of the largest in the world.

"I got up and was watching the news, when a news flash came in saying a small plane had hit one of the twin towers. They then managed to get hold of a woman who was in a hotel across from them and she said it was not a small plane but an American Airlines passenger plane.

Cumnock Chronicle: Tommy Verner from Dalmellington.Tommy Verner from Dalmellington.

"They then got a camera crew down there and I saw the tower building. I had to leave for work and drove down to their head office which is only a 15-minute drive. When I got there, there was a crowd of people in the entrance crowded round a TV. Then the second plane hit the south tower and there was just silence.

"At that someone switched the TV set off and everyone was told to carry on as normal."

As news filtered through of the atrocities unfolding in other parts of the country, Tommy and his colleagues were called together, and told to go home.

The days that followed were the most "surreal" he has ever lived through.

He continued: "Of course everyone was wondering what was going on as both planes were American Airlines. After half an hour everyone was told to assemble on the car park outside the office. The CEO... told us all to go home apart from a number of people who were required for necessary communications with the aircraft already in the air.

"When I got home, Bush had grounded all flights and everything already in the air had to land at the nearest airport. Of course then the Pentagon was hit and another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Some of the passengers on that flight were able to tell their loves ones what was going on.

"The next few days were quite surreal as there were no planes at all in the sky, which if you live in the Dallas metroplex you would not believe this as there are always planes in the sky. That day will be burned in my memory forever, not only for the massive loss of life but all the changes which were made for security sake."

Cumnock Chronicle:

The repurcussions on the airline industry following 9/11 were acute, and as a result, Tommy found himself in a new job.

He never returned to American Airlines and for the last 20 years has worked as an IT director for a logistics company, not far from where his former head office was.

He is now retired.

Tommy explained: "I was allowed back to work the following week, but huge changes were being put in place. American Airlines was losing money hand over fist because of the grounding of planes and all the changes in security they had to perform.

"American Airlines cancelled the project with our company and this lead to my company going bankrupt a few months later. I was fortunate to get a job immediately but a lot of my co-workers were not as fortunate.

"Every year at this time I think of the amount of people who lost their lives directly and indirectly, the firemen, police etc. In the immediate aftermath, Americans really banded together."

On his continued links to East Ayrshire, he added: "I am originally from Dalmellington and apart from Covid I get back there about twice a year. As far as I am concerned, it will always be my home."