9/11 letter from America 20 years on: Thank you, Bermuda
Brett Jolly, a US citizen, was on a routine flight from Portugal to Newark in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.
But it turned into a flight he would never forget after al-Qaida terror attacks hit his homeland.
Mr Jolly said in a letter to The Royal Gazette to mark the 20th anniversary that the plane’s captain delivered a chilling message over the intercom midway through the flight.
He told passengers: "The World Trade Centre has been attacked and the Pentagon is burning.
“US air space has been closed. Because we are on a southerly flight, we are going to be landing in Bermuda."
Mr Jolly, from Connecticut, said: “I will never forget those words.”
He added panic broke out in the passenger cabin after the captain finished.
Mr Jolly said: “People began screaming, sobbing, and crying.
“I was sure it was the end of the world and we had no further information until well after we got through the airport.”
Mr Jolly said he and his fellow passengers did not feel safe until they were wheels down in Bermuda.
He added: “I was amazed by the organisation of the Bemudian response.
“I was picked up at the airport with other refugees and when it was my group's turn I entered a van to take us to a hotel.
“I tried to get into what for me would be the passenger side, which in your country is the driver's side.
“The driver laughed in a welcoming way, and said ‘we do things differently here in Bermuda’.”
Mr Jolly said: “We were taken to the Princess Hotel, where everything ran like clockwork for us.
“To this day I recall the friendly people, the clear blue water, the amazing hotel.
“But I did not enjoy any of it for a moment. I was dazed.”
Mr Jolly added: “I was carrying on me a Swiss Army knife that my brother had given me that was obviously not going to be allowed back on the plane.
“I took a public bus into Hamilton, where I got to see first hand some of your friendly people and beautiful land.
“Getting one look at me, the postmaster knew my plight immediately.
“Although I did not have enough money to pay for this precious gift from my brother to be mailed to the US, he made up the difference out of his pocket.
“The knife arrived several days after I did and I cherish it to this day.”
Mr Jolly told Bermuda: “I have always wanted to return to your beautiful country to enjoy that clear blue water and the kindness of your people.
“As the years pass, it becomes more and more obvious that I will probably never be able to do so.
“Yet I want you to know that there are people like me who will be eternally grateful to the country and people of Bermuda, for doing what you did for us – for just being yourselves.
“On this 20th anniversary of the events of September 11, please accept my eternal gratitude and that of the hundreds of people you saved that day.
“May God bless you and your country.”