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Day 1 September 12, 2001 might not seem like a red-letter day after the horror of the World Trade Center attacks, but to New Zealanders who live 16 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, that was when the jets hit—and the first day of the Wellington Fashion Festival which was one of mixed emotions, writes Jack Yan

Photographed by Sarah Hunter and Nick Servian/Nick Servian Photography
Coverage sponsored by Jive Junkies

IKE the Kennedy assassination a generation before, people will be asking, ‘Where were you on September 11, 2001?’ for years to come. Except in Australia and New Zealand, people will ask, ‘Where were you on September 12, 2001?’
   Being 16 hours of Eastern Daylight Time, New Zealanders woke to the horror on their Wednesday that Americans had lived through all morning. Those suffering a late night, getting to bed at 2 a.m., might have experienced the same length of shock. The rest of the population was spared four or five hours’ less anxiety—but also four or five hours’ less time to heal and cope. Funny how they go together.
   It’s why, despite the spring 2002 Bryant Park shows being cancelled, Wellington ploughed ahead with its Fashion Festival. It’s not because New York was so far away: the horror was beamed into Kiwi living-rooms as it had done in any nation with a television set and a free press. It’s because no one knew how to react and most people in the fashion industry woke with the sole purpose of putting a show on the road.
   Scarcely anyone in New Zealand was immediately panicking about how the media could be kept informed while in the tents or how Staten Islanders would get home if the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was now blocked. Few were worried about their apartments in Wall Street and if any loved ones were in the financial district when the towers collapsed.
   I was one of the few.

 WONDERED why I couldn’t get to bed the night before.
   It was only on August 23, as a sick joke that seems ever more perverse now, I wrote in my diary, ‘Merry Christmas from the Taléban militia.’ It was meant to be ironic and humorous in a sick British way.
On September 12 in New Zealand, we were all New Yorkers. The distance between NY and NZ isn’t 9,000 miles, but one letter in the alphabet.

It’s just sick now. I should be careful what I record in there. Months earlier, friends called it The Magic Diary.
   I don’t even watch television. But there I was, in the small hours of September 12, in front of the box. I was dead tired from the last few days’ worth of fashion shows, plus being wary of any crises at Bryant Park while Lucire covered there. I was probably tired enough not to go to sleep.
   At 1 a.m., almost an hour before the first jet crashed into the first tower, I sat in front of the television. There was nothing remarkable going on in the world. BBC’s World Business Report told little. I got to bed as the horror struck, unaware of why I was experiencing such anxiety.
   Where was I when the jets struck the World Trade Center? On the way to my bedroom in New Zealand.
   Edward Hodges, our Wellington correspondent, telephoned me at 6 a.m., minutes after he found out. I was literally the second person he told, after his partner, David. I never had time for the shock to settle. Priorities were: find out if everyone is all right; put together a counselling service for staff; issue a press release; write a response for readers who might seek help from us.
   My emails from that morning were especially poignant. New York editor Richard Spiegel got to his email within minutes, so the Bryant Park team was fine. But there were other staff at JY&A New York that might not be. For hours I operated in a panicked calm as we feared loss of life due to the silence from one office.
   We’re saddened that one of our team members has had to write two cards of condolence, but we were the lucky firm. No casualties. But everyone here knew someone who was personally affected. It’s times like this that you appreciate that New York, with the 12 million people living there, is in fact a village. New Yorkers are first to say ‘Bless you’ when you sneeze, the first to lend a helping hand without questioning their own safety. Now the world knows. What we saw on television wasn’t unusual heroism. It’s the way we are. It’s the way all of us would be in exactly the same circumstance.
   On September 12 in New Zealand, we were all New Yorkers. The distance between NY and NZ isn’t 9,000 miles, but one letter in the alphabet.
   I could skip the Fashion Festival’s breakfast at Kirkcaldie & Stains, sort of like a Wellington Bloomingdale’s but geared more for the nouveaux riches in décor and product terms. Damn it, you expect to hear an old woman come in and announce: ‘I’m Omar Sharif’s mother.’
   Edward said he was going, as did Carolyn Leslie, Lucire’s other journalist on the spot in the city. Carolyn, like me, has very close connections to New York City.
   I went. Apparently David Knight of Kirk’s would welcome everyone at 8 a.m. and the Mayor would declare the Festival open at 8·05 a.m. I arrived at 8·35 a.m. I left at 8·45 a.m.
   Edward, Carolyn and I didn’t meet: we all arrived at different times, keen to go on to our next appointment. Mine was returning to this office to confirm whether anyone had been killed. I stayed long enough to note that this event had more elegant women than any other at the Festival—interestingly, they were not the models and had exquisite taste. Perhaps I had misjudged earlier impressions that this place was just for the hard-spending nouveaux riches. What was it that Tennyson said about young men’s fancies in spring? No, Tennyson never had jets crashing in to his home. Stuff the fancies.
   I went to shake hands, to announce my presence, to have some fruit on a stick. Hello to the Deputy Mayor. Hello to Karen McDonald, Totally Wellington’s effervescent fashion retail manager. Hello to Andrea Moore, Wellington’s first Sydney Fashion Week-showing designer. Hello to the Mayor, Mark Blumsky, in his last few months of office. Last few months? Rudy Giuliani is in his last few months. Rudy. New York. I’d better get back.

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Fashion Map launch, text overleaf. Top: Happy 10th anniversary: Unity's Phil Komene and Tania Rupapera with James, at the Fashion Map launch. Centre: Totally Wellington staff wearing T-shirts printed with the map. Above: Sally-ann Moffat of Totally Wellington with Lucire TV's Jason Moon.

Servian and Minx’s Fashion Emergency (text overleaf). Top: The “S&M” segment of Kathy Servian's show: Nicole in plastic bra top, capri pants and red fishskin leather Minx shoes. Sunglasses by Gucci. We're not sure who made the whip. Above: Rachel wears the grand finalé at Servian: a red silk wedding dress with bouquet by Lime Forest. Left: Hayley in Servian Enjoy top, one-off sari skirt and glitter shoes by Minx.

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