A RETIRED fire chief made a touching transatlantic trip to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on the atrocity's 21st anniversary.

Former Largs Thistle manager Sandy MacLean was a junior firefighter in Greenock on September 11 2001 - the day when 343 firefighters lost their lives after two hijacked passengers jets were flown into the Twin Towers.

Sandy was joined by wife Fiona in Lower Manhattan as they visited the One World Trade Centre on Sunday, the main building of the rebuilt complex.

Sandy said: "I have always wanted to go to New York and we just booked it after I retired in December.

"We were fortunate that our hotel was straight across from where the memorial day took place.

"We saw the pipe bands and parades, it was really special to be in New York to experience this in person, given my career.

"To see the towers shining into the night sky was quite emotional."

The Tribute in Light is an art installation created in remembrance of the September 11 attacks.

It consists of 88 vertical searchlights arranged in two columns of light to represent the Twin Towers.

Sandy also took time to pay tribute to those who died in the horrific terror attack 21 years ago.

He said: "I was working day shift in Greenock Fire Station and a van driver came in to say that a plane had flown into the towers. We thought it was probably a wee single-engine biplane and then the true horror of what was happening dawned on everyone.

"We were watching it in the station and you could have heard a pin drop when the footage came through.

"Being in the fire service you know how these things work. We are trained to run towards an accident rather than away from it and because of that, so many emergency workers perished that day.

"Going round the monument at the fire station in New York was very poignant and I met a fellow firefighter from Texas who had also just retired. We both spoke to each other about how important it was to be there to pay our respects."

Sandy, who now lives in Greenock, is well known in Largs after serving as Thistle manager three times between 1999 and 2015.

The father-of-two retired from Greenock and Port Glasgow where he was station commander in December 2021 after also serving in Paisley, Johnstone and Bute.

He said: "Losing 343 firefighters is the equivalent of all the firefighters in Glasgow, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire being killed in the blink of an eye. Even now, I still can't get my head around the loss of so many people.

"Those guys will have been scared as well but knew they had a job to do on the day. I have nothing but praise for the firefighters of New York that day, they showed real courage, endeavour and bravery against incredible adversity."