PHILIP PRITCHARD was born and bred in Acomb, York, attending Nunthorpe Grammar School. He graduated from Columbia University, New York, and for the last 20 years has been a professor at Manhattan College. He was at home in Brooklyn when the terrorists struck

I WAS in my apartment. It was a beautiful early autumn-like day - blue sky, breezy, neither hot nor cold. I was having my morning tea, and turned on the TV to the Today show (a national news/talk show), and saw the first tower smoking away.

I immediately ran up to the roof so I could see the twin towers.

From my roof I can see across the east river the entire lower Manhattan skyline, pretty much as I can see the Minster from the top of Dane Avenue in Acomb. The scene was terrible: a huge plume of smoke, sirens blaring even in Brooklyn, helicopters everywhere, people on roofs all over anxiously looking, hands over mouths.

For a second we all thought it had been an accident, maybe a two-seater plane, but the scale of the fire immediately told us otherwise. There was an apocalyptic feel - no-one was sure what would happen next, and where. We felt like the world was ending.

I went down to the street to tell some friends who had been on the way to work. Even from the street level where I live you could glimpse the twin towers between gaps in the apartment buildings and trees.

As I was talking I saw a huge fireball behind a large tree down the street - it was so large and bright I thought it was directly behind the tree, but in fact it was the plane hitting the second tower. Many of us gathered on rooftops to see the horrible scene of the two towers smoking and flaming.

There was an absolutely massive smoke plume spreading over much of lower Manhattan, and the sirens, helicopters, and now fighter jets, made so much noise that we were sure it was the end of the world.

About half an hour after the towers fell I had to close the windows. Even though I am about five miles from the towers as the crow flies, the smell of burning (just like the smell that "bangers" produce on Guy Fawkes night) was too intense, and the air was filled with fine dust-like particles that burned my nostrils.

On the street people were just standing, many weeping, some hugging one another. My wife, Penelope, was at school, in Brooklyn but much closer to Manhattan. The head teacher instructed the teachers to close the blinds so children could not see the horror - rumours spread among the children, and some of the boys in particular were very excited at the concept of planes smashing into the towers.

My wife realised they were not monsters when they said " but everyone's okay, right?" She called me sobbing on the phone to say the school was in emergency mode, everyone in the auditorium until further notice (we didn't know what would happen next chemicals? germs?).

Mayor Guiliani was on TV telling us the city was in emergency mode - everyone go home and stay home, many people dead.

In the following days everything was shut down. There was a funereal air to the neighbourhood. In my neighbourhood we lost most of our firemen.

Thousands of us held a candlelit procession at the firehouse, flowers everywhere, handwritten and computer generated notes in every store and on every lamppost pleading for information about loved ones, the American flag everywhere - in shop windows, cars, hanging from buildings, in newspapers and magazines.

I lost a friend - a great bloke, Irish-American, early 30s. His wife didn't know that he'd gone to the towers (not his normal workplace) that day until she listened to his message: "Hi sweety I'm in the twin towers and something has happened, I'm coming home"

She has two small children.

I think for most of us New Yorkers it was the worst few weeks of our lives, and we will never really recover. Most Americans and I take solace in the wonderful support that Brits in particular have shown - and I think the "special relationship" is now more special than ever.

On the other hand, New York is reviving. Park Slope in Brooklyn is booming, with new restaurants (even an English fish and chip restaurant!) opening daily. The Trade Centre site will eventually have a fantastic renaissance, and I am learning what we already knew: to be an American means to be amazingly positive and forward-thinking.