Trapped in the twin towers of the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001, thousands of ordinary people struggled to survive and make contact with the outside world. Many knew that time was ticking away and wanted to speak to their loved ones for a final time, while others turned to friends and relatives, as well as the emergency services, to discover what was happening and find a means of escape.
Eight years on, these recorded messages and memories of the private calls are a treasured legacy for the families left behind, the last known words of their loved ones. Dignified and full of love, they show humanity at its best and most courageous.
'It's me, I just wanted to let you know I love you and I'm stuck in this building in New York. A plane hit the building and there's lots of smoke and I just wanted you to know I love you...'Melissa Harrington-Hughes, 31, 101st floor, North Tower
'I love you, you're my best friend. I don't know if I'm going to get out of it. You have to take care of everybody for me...'Jim Gartenberg, 35, 86th floor, North Tower
Newly married Melissa Harrington-Hughes was a beautiful and successful Californian businesswoman, in New York for a meeting on the morning of September 11. Trapped on the 101st floor of the North Tower she immediately called her father, Bob, for advice.
Resolved to escape, Melissa hung up the phone, promising to call back when she was safe. But, just minutes later, Melissa had to come to terms with her inevitable fate and she left a message on her husband's phone, saying goodbye. Bob Harrington and Melissa's brother Michael talk in the film about Melissa and what the calls and message mean to them.
'I was the last one from the outside world to talk to Melissa,' says Bob Harrington. 'I think of it constantly. When you leave this earth all you leave are your children - that's your legacy. My inner peace with Melissa's death might come from the fact that I spoke to her. I find a lot of pleasure knowing that Melissa called me, that we were able to say our last goodbyes. I got to talk to Melissa in person, and I'll take that to my grave'.
Stephen Mulderry, 33, worked as a trader on the 88th Floor of the South Tower. Trapped above the plane's impact zone, Stephen and a group of athletic co-workers climbed over 20 floors to the roof in a desperate bid to escape. Finding the doors locked, Stephen retreated to a conference room, where he and his colleagues shared a cellphone, calling loved ones to say goodbye.
Stephen left a heart-breakingly brave message for his mother Anne - a message that she has turned to for solace, closure, and as a tribute to her son's strength in the face of terror:
'The message Stephen left meant everything to me,' says Anne. 'I clung to it. I listened to it repeatedly in the days after.
'The world doesn't stop for every tragic loss of life. I kind of wish the world could. The world gets too busy and I understand you can't. You would be in constant grieving. It's too easy for me to fall into a place where life is only about endurance and that's a very poor way to live life. Don't lose sight of the big things. Embrace life and its joys.'
September 11 was going to be Jim Gartenberg's last day in his World Trade Centre office - he'd only gone in to clear his desk before moving to another job. Trapped by debris on the 86th floor in the North Tower, Jim made an extraordinary series of phone calls in search of help evening, speaking live on ABC TV about the situation in the towers.
As time ran out, Jim left a message for his wife Jill. She listened to her husband's voice while watching the burning buildings from her office window. Calling Jim back, Jill stayed on the phone with him until the towers fell. Pregnant with the couple's second child at the time, Jill treasures those words and sharing those final moments with Jim.
'Jim called me instantaneously as soon as it happened,' says Jill. 'His first response was, he needs to talk to me. Just to have his voice, it's nice... it's some last memories. I was three months pregnant when Jim passed away. Here I am with this special gift that Jim left me with. Knowing that she's a part of him and my other child is such a part of him - it makes me happy.'
Simon Dickson, Channel 4's deputy head of documentaries, says:
'Eight years on from the attacks, this amazing film is a genuinely fresh approach to the 9/11 story, using very powerful recordings, some of which have never been heard before.
'The messages are an incredibly moving testament to the memories of the people who died in the Twin Towers and reveal the dignity, courage, humanity and love shown at the worst of times. And the victims' families, who have co-operated in the making of the film and provided most of the recordings, talk heartbreakingly about speaking to their loved ones for the final time as they watched powerless as the disaster unfolded on TV.
'All the messages are, of course, a double-edged legacy - there is only a recording because someone missed a call or the caller was in dire need of help, but, as a result, the families have something concrete to turn to - a portal into more life-affirming memories. The messages prompt us all to ponder whether, faced with such a terrible situation, we could act with such courage and compassion.'
James Kent, who directed the film, adds:
'As well as voice-messages, the film features calls from victims in the towers as they pleaded for help from emergency services. For the families who feature in the film, these calls, though painful listening, have provided greater understanding of their loved ones' actions and courage on the day - as well being an essential testament to the real human cost of 9/11.'