Saturday, September 11, 2010

United We Stand

Some events you remember forever. Some very clearly, some in a haze. Some are extremely important, others are just a passing moment in time. One event that that is etched into my mind is September 11, 2000.

I was in Atlanta, just getting ready for the opening of the Networld + Interop Trade Show. This event, held at various locations around the world throughout the year, was one that our company had been attending for many years. This was probably my 10th show. Half of the ones that I attended were in Las Vegas. Atlanta was nicer, because it was just four hours down the road. Moving in, setting up the booth and then manning it for four days wasn't my idea of fun. Sure, hanging out with my coworkers was nice. Attending parties at the Hard Rock or catching a concert were perks, but the work was hard.

The show floor was just getting ready to open. We were about to have our company pep talk, syncing on the last minute changes, making sure everyone was going in the same direction.

The CEO of the company showed up at about 9am. He had heard reports that a plane had hit a building in New York City. I hopped on a computer, hoping to find out some detailed info from the Internet. It was slow, but I was able to get a connection to CNN, whose headquarters were just across the street. A photo of one of the Twin Towers with smoke billowing out.

The CEO's wife was back at their hotel. She was calling in with more detailed info. Slowly some news started to trickle on to the show floor. There were rumors and confusion. Several companies that had rented booths pulled up stakes and left. Some had offices and families in New York. I didn't blame them.

At some point that morning I was able to speak with Angie. She has family in the area, so she felt safe, but not being able to be near my family wasn't easy.

As the day wore on, it was clear that the show was shot. Potential customers and other booth jockeys would wander in, but rather than discuss technology our talk turned to the events of that morning.

A gentleman walked by our booth. By his dress he was clearly a follower of Sikhism. I didn't see that. I saw a terrorist. I saw someone who attacked our country. I was looking with my anger glasses on. I didn't say anything, but I thought things that I shouldn't have.

More companies left the show floor as the week progressed. The management closed the show early each day. Many of the restaurants and shopping areas near our hotel shut down. We played cards in the hotel lobby. Nothing new on the news, just the same horrific videos. The USA Today didn't offer anything fresh. The show wrapped up and I headed home, driving with a co-worker, each of us longing to be with our families.

I wasn't following baseball at the time. I knew that games had been canceled, but it didn't greatly affect me. Games resumed and life returned to somewhat of a semi-normal state.

A few years ago I was able to visit the Smithsonian's traveling 9/11 exhibit. It came to Knoxville. I attended with caution. Did I really want to see the photos or watch the videos? See the carnage in person? No, I didn't. But I'm glad I went. I learned some things. I learned that the nation could still make it through difficult times. I learned that I still had the ability to forgive. And the resolve not to forget.

2002 Topps Chrome, Diamondbacks vs. Rockies (card #360)


  1. Thanks for your perspective.

    Like you, I was out of town but in Cleveland for the week. My hotel was packed with a massive convention which immediately broke up after the attack and (almost) everybody went home. I could not leave though as I was reporting on a trial for my company and that trial continued. My notes which I dictated back to my company that day read something like "Witness X testified as to blah, blah, blah.....Court adjourned abruptly due to an unknown problem in New York."

    Sitting in a large downtown hotel probably at 5% capacity for a week while this was going on was truly surreal.

    That said, the afternoon of 9-11 when I was finally able to get back into the hotel (the Cleveland police "closed" it for a while and searched it with dogs fearing a terrorist attack) and call home, my wife advised me that she was pregnant with our second child. Very strong mixed emotions that day.

  2. Nice post. I hadn't realized you were out of town then.

    A surreal time. Distance adds some perspective, but doesn't lessen the loss.