9/11: ‘People who grew up in the Troubles got it right away’ says Coronation Street actor Charlie Lawson

Unlike the rest of the UK, people from NI understood immediately that 9/11 was a terrorist attack - and that the ramifications would be huge, says actor Charlie Lawson.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 10:00 am
Updated Sunday, 12th September 2021, 3:28 pm

Lawson, 61, who is best known for playing Jim McDonald in Coronation Street, is originally from Enniskillen.

He says that growing up watching daily news about the Troubles in NI meant that he immediately understood 9/11 was a terrorist attack.

“I was living in Alderley Edge [in Cheshire] at the time and was in the kitchen doing the ironing and watching the racing on Channel 4 and there was a news flash,” he told the News Letter.

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Northern Ireland actor Charlie Lawson pictured shortly before the 9/11 attacks. Picture Stephen Hamilton /Presseye.com

“I knew - and I suspect everyone back home [in NI] knew when we saw the clip - that it was terrorism and not an accident.

“You don’t fly around airspace over New York and nobody knows about it. I knew that was it. I certainly wasn’t expecting what happened 40 minutes later [with the second plane] but I knew the world had changed there and then.”

His friends back home drew the same conclusion he said “because we have an appetite for news because of the way we grew up”.

He added: “I suspect we were all aware of terrorism around the globe. I certainly was and I knew straight away - I guessed - who or what was at the root of it. There is no way it could have been an accident - flight controllers are not stupid.”

His phone didn’t stop for two or three hours with military veteran friends asking if he had seen it.

“Everybody was of the same mind. We all knew that the world had changed - long before our friends and colleagues and loved ones in England knew. I think they were just in shock. And I was saying. ‘Well, brace yourself because you are going to have to get used to it’. Instantly I understood.

“We grew up watching the news - Scene Around Six through the seventies as children.”

This means he and others like him have “a worldly wise knowledge far superior in my experience, certainly to everyone in my industry and largely most of the UK population, especially in England”.

In England, he says there are many people who “only bump into the news by accident and then leave the room to go back to the kitchen”.

He added: “Everybody I know back in the day on 9/11, we all knew what it was all about because I suspect we are all more literate and clued up than our friends over here [in England] - because we grew up watching the news and the Troubles.” 

His contemporaries did not immediately understand what the ramifications were going to be.

“The guys I knew that were serving [in the military] at the time knew, certainly everybody I spoke to back home [in NI] knew. But the gentlefolk of England didn’t really twig until probably the [US] President said: ‘This will not stand’. And then they thought, ‘Oh my God, is this terrorism?’

“We were sort of saying, ‘I told you so ten’ hours before that. But that doesn’t make me a special person, it just the way we have grown up and in Northern Ireland and how we inwardly digest news. I just think we are more worldly wise.”

More September 11 stories:

• NI survivor who escaped the 101st floor: ‘I thought this was the end and screamed out my mummy’s name’

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