I was mayor of the borough of Eastbourne at the time exactly 10 years ago on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were so wantonly and arbitrarily destroyed by terrorist action, with colossal and tragic loss of life.
I immediately felt it was my duty to write to the President of the United States in my position of mayor to offer the condolences of the people of Eastbourne.
In my letter of sympathy, I said that our town had suffered several years of bombing by enemy action, with its accompanying loss of life and experience of destruction, injury and death, and therefore could relate to his country’s recent experience.
As I was in London representing the town at a national awards ceremony I took the opportunity to deliver the letter to the United States embassy personally.
I was ushered into an imposing entry hall, having rejected the request of two huge armed marines to remove the mayoral chain to pass through the metal detector.
After a brief wait, the First Secretary came in and accepted the letter with gratitude and told me that, along with others received by the President, it would be placed in the State archives.
I later learned that the post of First Secretary is the survivor of the years before the United States was a fully-recognised independent nation.
It is a unique post in our relationship with the United States and is now the Ambassador’s Number Two. I felt privileged and proud to have acted on this occasion on behalf of the citizens of Eastbourne who were so shocked and saddened by the loss our friends in the States had suffered.