Regiment reassured stranded Americans in the wake of 9/11
Lieutenant-Colonel David Gibbons was the Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment at the time of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Colonel Gibbons, now the Honorary Colonel of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, said that the island’s soldiers and other emergency services carried out their duties with calm efficiency and professionalism.
But the veteran soldier admitted that, from the vantage point of 20 years later, the aftermath of the outrages seemed almost surreal.
Colonel Gibbons said: “We received a call from the Governor fairly swiftly after it was known that America was under attack.
“There was a great deal of communication between the Governor, the Commissioner of Police and other authorities to decide how best to react with what we knew at the time – which was very little.”
The uncertainty of the situation was the biggest challenge the security services faced in the first few hours.
But the Regiment had devised a list of priorities.
Colonel Gibbons said: “As events unravelled, it became clear that our first priority was to make sure that Bermuda was safe.”
He added that involved securing ports of entry – harbours and the airport, which was inundated with airliners after the US shut down its airspace in the wake of the attacks.
Armed troops were stationed at other key points such as power plants and communications centres.
There was at the time a genuine belief that Bermuda could come under attack.
Once the US closed down its air space, it was feared that terrorists still in the air could turn their attention to other targets.
Bermuda, a UK Overseas Territory with close links to the US, would have been an easy target.
Colonel Gibbons said: “Our concern was that the attacks in the US might be just the first wave.
“What if they were planning something else equally devilish?
“Once again, there was this whole question of uncertainty. What was going on? Every contingency had to be covered.”
A second wave of attacks never materialised – but Bermuda had played a key role in support of its wounded neighbour.
The fact is perhaps best illustrated by Colonel Gibbons’ most vivid memory of the day of the Twin Towers attacks.
Colonel Gibbons said he often stopped to speak to groups of Americans whose planes were diverted to Bermuda after the attacks in the US started as he and other soldiers patrolled the streets of St George’s.
He added: “They were coming up to us and thanking us.
“They had this enormous sense of relief – they were so thankful and grateful.
“They had clearly been through an ordeal but, once they had landed in Bermuda, they felt safe.”