Chris Baxter witnessed the destruction of New York at first hand from the airport lounge at Newark International Airport. Here he tells STEVE CARROLL what he saw

HIS eyes fixed into the distance, Chris Baxter watched the small black dot flashing across the sky. In front of him, a little more than three miles away, smoke billowed from the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.

But he couldn't take his eyes away from the dot.

It arced in front of his vision and suddenly disappeared, replaced by a blinding yellow fireball.

The 49-year-old had just witnessed the second plane crashing into the South Tower. Immediately he recoiled.

"At first it was just an airplane in the sky", said Chris, of New Earswick.

"I was transfixed along with everyone else.

"It was just incredible. At that point I told my son that we had better get on the phone to England."

Chris had been on holiday in Peru and was waiting at Newark International Airport, in New Jersey, for a transfer flight back to Britain.

His stop-off made him a witness to the world's worst terrorist outrage.

"We just didn't know what was going to happen next.

I saw the buildings come down. That was the last thing we had expected.

"Then we realised the implications regarding the number of people who were inside the buildings."

United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked after it left Newark on its way to San Francisco.

As airport staff realised what had happened and America shut its air space, Newark was evacuated.

Chris added: "We only had the clothes we were in.

We weren't supposed to even still be in America. We were advised to go to the nearest hotel. Luckily, there was one across the road."

But the drama for Chris did not end there. Within hours of arriving at the Marriott Hotel, teams of FBI officers swooped.

They believed that two of the Flight 93 hijackers had stayed at the Marriott the night before.

"Everybody was just scared stiff. We didn't know what to do. We wanted to help but knew that we couldn't," Chris said.

"At the airport, there had been suspicions that the hijackers could have left bombs in their vehicles. Then all the FBI people started running around.

They closed half the hotel.

"It was very difficult to take in at the time. Having no visas, we weren't allowed to leave. We were told to stay close to the hotel."

Chris was trapped in New York while America feared it could be attacked again.

A year later, he says the magnitude of what he saw and went through on September 11 still amazes him.

"I still can't get over it. If it crops up in conversation and people are talking about it, I think I was there'," he said.

"It was incredible but everyone stuck together and we got through it."