Only a change of plan kept Ledbury Poetry Festival manager Charles Bennett and his wife, Pippa from a sightseeing trip to New York on the day of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre.

As it was, the couple found themselves marooned in the USA for a week with no way home, as all flights out of the country were cancelled as Americans came to terms with the scale of the disaster.

Dr Bennett, who only returned to Ledbury last Saturday, said: "There were 30,000 people stranded in Boston, including ourselves. "Understandably, it took a long time to speak to British Airways on the phone. After 30 minutes we got through and they told us the earliest flight they could give us was Friday, September 21, a week later than we planned.

"They put us on a two-hour standby for earlier flights but they didn't happen."

The Bennetts were originally due to fly from Logan Airport on Friday, September 14 - the airport from which two of the highjacked planes had taken off.

Dr Bennett said: "This was a very powerful time to be in America, very moving.

"On the day of the attacks themselves, we were in Cape Cod. We had thought about going to New York but had decided not to, fortunately.

"We were driving back from Cape Cod and heard the news on the radio. So we just pulled over and listened for a long time."

The Bennetts were able to come to terms with the catastrophe by staying with friends in Plymouth, New England.

He said: "There was a sense that everyone felt bereaved. This has created more compassion among people, actually."

Dr Bennett said that catching the flight back home from Logan Airport was "a bit scary," not least because of the large number of armed security men with rifles, who were necessary in the wake of the terrorist outrage.

He added: "We're glad to be safe, and back in Ledbury."