A COUNCILLOR and committed volunteer has shared details of a field trip he took - about six weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2011.

Cllr Gerry Frobisher, of Prestatyn, took the trip at his own cost. He wanted to meet volunteers and find out the work undertaken following the horrific day.

The father to Harriet, Alice, Charlotte and Adam travelled alone.

He had purchased tickets to New York earlier in June as a surprise to his wife Sharon for their 14th wedding anniversary.

However, when presented with the tickets on the anniversary in October - Sharon was adamant she wasn’t prepared to holiday in the country and shared worries about further attacks.

Mr Frobisher said: “We argued and we fell out and the atmosphere around the home was uncomfortable. No matter how hard I tried to encourage her to go, the harder Sharon put her foot down. It wasn’t a nice time and after a while the more she said ‘no’ the more I was determined to go - even if it was by myself. I tried for three weeks encouraging her to go but to no avail.

“I suppose after Sharon’s reaction I knew I was going no matter what. It was an opportunity not to miss.

“On the day, I had big hugs from Harriet and Alice and a guarded hug from Charlotte. My 12-year-old Adam gave me a kiss and Sharon was in tears as she gave me a hug. She was still trying to deter me from going in case of further attacks and bombs.

“We landed at JFK International Airport at 1.46am UK time.”

When at the hotel, Gerry - feeling a bit wary about being so far away from home with no real plan of action - lay on his bed and tried to get some sleep.

Over the next few days he explored the sites. He recalls visiting the Empire State Building and hearing crying.

Mr Frobisher visited The Empire State Building

Mr Frobisher visited The Empire State Building

“There were several hundred people on the gallery,” he said.

“I thought it would have been quite noisy with all people chatting and admiring the views, but no, it wasn’t. Everyone was quite sombre; the gallery was quiet, very quiet. Respectably quiet.

"Some people were visibly grieving and crying and comforting each other. Others were saying prayers in a variety of languages.

“There was hardly anyone looking at the views on three of the sides.

“Everyone was crowded on the side overlooking where the Twin Towers had stood only seven weeks previous and what had now become known as “Ground Zero”.

“I, like everyone else, just stared in silence. I could see that smoke was still rising from the devastation of Ground Zero.

“The gallery had an overwhelming feeling of sadness because of everyone’s hushed tones. I somehow felt I was intruding on other people’s grief.

"There was a sort of communal grief in the air. I overheard heard someone phoning the UK saying it was far worse actually seeing the extent of the devastation, than seeing it on television and reading it in the papers.”

Mr Frobisher, who had started work as a volunteer co-ordinator in the Denbighshire Volunteer Centre of Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council a year earlier, headed to Ground Zero.

“I knew I was approaching it because there was a clinging smell in the air as I got nearer,” Mr Frobisher said.

“The smell was hard to explain. It was like an invisible dusty gritty smoke that clung to the back of my throat. It got in my eyes and up my nose making me stream. There was a sense that there was still burning in the air. It smelt like the burning clutch on a car, burnt metal. It was as if the actual dust in the air was burnt.

“There was a 10 foot high wooden and metal panelled fencing around Ground Zero to stop people looking in. The whole site was cordoned off and well-guarded, no-one except the authorities were being allowed through. Then suddenly between two tall buildings I got a glimpse of the site. I saw a huge bit of twisted metal, melted metal, cranes, smoke and water sprayers."

“Because of the amount of dust in the air there were lorries driving around all day spraying the roads and pavements trying to keep the dust down.

“There was that clinging smell all the time and dust everywhere.”

Mr Frobisher saw a broken tree, a flattened road sign, taped up windows and dust filled cafes.

He added: “There were some cars that had not been moved since 9/11.

“They were not damaged at all but still covered in deep ash like dust.”

Mr Frobisher saw tributes tied to the fencing, on lampposts, street signs, railings and shop windows.

He said: “There were pictures of missing people, of loved ones and their details. “

St Paul’s Chapel formed part of the fence around Ground Zero.

Mr Frobisher said he knew he was approaching Ground Zero because there was a clinging smell in the air as he got nearer.

Mr Frobisher said he knew he was approaching Ground Zero because there was a clinging smell in the air as he got nearer.

Mr Frobisher explained: “The fence had been built on both either side of the Chapel. There were people continuously going in and out of the front doors. The railings at the front of the church were covered in white sheets that people were using to write their condolences on, and hundreds of pictures of those missing.”

Mr Frobisher witnessed relatives arriving for a Ground Zero Memorial Service.

“There was about 2,000 relatives being bussed in,” he said.

“There were police everywhere some wearing gas masks, some visibly carrying guns.

“There were masses of people gathering outside Ground Zero scrambling about trying to get a look and take pictures.

“People were clambering up best they could to look over the fence. I must admit I was one of those; I was part way up a lamppost.”

The relatives were led from the buses on the other side of the road to where Mr Frobisher was, where the public couldn’t go.

There were tributes and posters for missing people

There were tributes and posters for missing people

He said: “Some carried flowers supporting each other as they walked towards an opening in the ten foot high fencing allowing them on to the Ground Zero site.

“Many of the people looked sad, drained, and had dark circles under their eyes.

“All the onlookers held quiet respect. Although there were thousands of people watching there was a hushed muted silence and an even larger feeling of communal grief and sadness.

“I could hear the start of the service over the loudspeakers on Ground Zero and the relatives praying and singing hymns. I heard the Star Spangled Banner and Amazing Grace, God Bless America and Ava Maria being sung, as well as prayers.

“I could not see anything of the service. None of us could.

“Looking at Ground Zero on the television, and reading about it in the press, doesn’t give one the actual sense of sorrow and loss one becomes involved in when you are actually there, and only yards away.

"I actually felt like a cry because of the communal grief and the sights and sounds of what was happening and why.”

Mr Frobisher continued over the next few days visiting a large number of different sites and spoke to volunteers and those who had put their heart and souls into helping after the national disaster.

One of those days involved a visit to No 51 Chambers Street, the home of the Mayors Volunteer Action Centre.

Harriette Heller, Gerry Frobisher and Jerry Pannozzo

Harriette Heller, Gerry Frobisher and Jerry Pannozzo

Mr Frobisher was introduced to Harriette Heller, the executive director of the centre, and Jerry Pannozzo, assistant director.

Mr Frobisher took in the view to the North of Manhattan, from the Monton Village Community Association (MVCA).

From another window there was a view of where the World Trade Towers once stood.

"Harriette told me about the view of the Twin Towers from their office and now it was now gone," Mr Frobisher said.

"She was in the office that day. She felt the whole building shake. She made a phone call to ask security what had happened – but they didn’t know. Then a member of staff (a volunteer) saw out the window the towers on fire. Their first thoughts were a small single seated plane had crashed as an accident, but then the real reason came out.

"People were running around the office not really knowing what to do and security told them to leave the building at once."

Harriette didn’t see the Towers fall, but told Gerry she felt numb and seemed to be in "overdrive".

Mr Frobisher added: "She got to a friend’s office and watched the news on the television. She was later told not to report for work until called."

Mr Frobisher carried on during the duration of his trip meeting and speaking to people.

"Wherever you were in Manhattan, you could always smell Ground Zero," he said.

"You were always reminded where you were.

"The police and army personnel were out in force and they were all armed and looked very edgy, but some were happy to talk to me."

Reflecting on his trip, Mr Frobisher said: "I saw no car bumps, saw any fights, or heard any gunfire. I heard sirens quite often but everyone appeared to be getting on with their day to day lives.

"I met some wonderful people. They had not experienced anyone like me, carrying out a personal field trip before. I was the first. Someone who had come all the way from North Wales to see what they do, and how they coped with the 9/11 disaster. I met some truly dedicated New Yorkers.

"Everyone I met wanted to show me what volunteering they did and their part in the aftermath of 9/11.

"I was able to meet some very important, dedicated and committed volunteers, projects and organisations who had played a huge part in the aftermath of the Twin Towers disaster.

"It was a great honour to meet them all."