Twenty years ago, Dr Geoffrey Porges had been about to board a plane to New York when two planes struck the Twin Towers.
Originally from Orange, Dr Porges has called the United States home for more than 30 years and lives just outside New York City, commuting into Midtown every day for work.
At the time of the September 11 attacks, Dr Porges - the son of retired Orange surgeon Dr Stuart Porges - had been trying to fly into New York from the UK.
"I was sitting at Gatwick Airport. My wife was working in a building in Midtown and saw the second plane fly into the tower," Dr Porges recalled.
"I was trying to fly back to New York and suddenly my flight was cancelled and... I was stranded in London for 10 days."
In the days and weeks to come, like the vast majority of New York's business community, Dr Porges learnt he had lost a friend in the attack - a business school classmate who was flying out to see his fiancée when his plane was hijacked by the terrorists.
In the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of day which changed the US and the world forever, Dr Porges said the recent withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan - ending a war started in response to 9/11 - had "doubled the sadness" of many.
"It's definitely caused a lot of mixed emotions," he said.
"As a result of this tragedy 20 years ago, the country gets involved in a war and thousands more US citizens and soldiers die... and then we have this terrible retreat.
"I think there's this view that what happened in Afghanistan [with the Taliban seizing control again] is a painful reminder of what happened 20 years ago.
"And are we any safer [now]? It's not clear... so I think that it would probably be more straightforward if we hadn't had the whole Afghanistan situation."
It was difficult to really take stock of the anniversary too when life was currently so turbulent in the US, he added.
So far, COVID-19 had killed 660,000 Americans and so many hundreds of thousands of others had been impacted in a myriad of ways.
"I think the average person here knows multiple families... that have been affected. I think the number is now one in 500 Americans have died of COVID," he said.
"There's just been so much emotional grief over COVID and over Afghanistan [right now]... that I feel like, to a certain extent the 20th anniversary of 9/11 has sort of been diminished in its significance.
"[September 11] will definitely be a solemn occasion... [but] I think it's hard for the country to come together and say, 'okay, this is a very important occasion and we're all going to sort of mark this together' [when] .... so many people are still caught up with COVID."
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