Poignant Memories of ‘The 9/11 Trade Show’ –Michelson
It's hard to believe that the opening day of GRAPH EXPO 2011 will coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Like with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the reading of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, most people will remember where they were that fateful day when news of two planes crashing into the Twin Towers first hit the airwaves.
Like many in our industry, I was in Chicago at the PRINT 01 trade show. Slated to fly home to Philadelphia later that day, I never made it to O'Hare Airport before all planes were grounded, and ended up in Chicago three extra days before securing a rental car to drive home. Surprisingly, most out-of-town attendees who couldn't find a way home continued to flock to McCormick Place following the tragedy, primarily for moral support and companionship, as they clustered around the televisions set up in exhibitor booths and the outer kiosks.
Julie McFarland, CEO of McNaughton & Gunn, recalls being at McCormick Place on 9/11 when someone encouraged a group of people to hold hands as a prayer was spoken for those whose lives had been lost. "Religion and business aren't usually mixed, but that day we were bound by the threat to our nation," she says. "All of us were united in support of the freedoms on which our industry and our country were founded." Having driven from Saline, MI, to Chicago with other members of her team, they were actually luckier than most because they had their own car to get home.
All kinds of stories circulated afterwards about how PRINT '01 attendees and exhibitors found unique ways to get home to their loved ones. They ranged all the way from hiring cabs and limousines, to renting buses, campers and even U-Haul trucks. I also heard of people buying old "junkers," hoping they wouldn't break down before reaching their final destination.
Don Duncanson, president of Dynacolor Graphics, was one of the more fortunate ones getting home to Florida. Arriving at O'Hare just as the airport was being shut down, his traveling companions luckily were at the front of the line returning their rental car. Thus, they were able to rent a large van for their party of six. But, when the rental agency drove them over to the spot where the van was supposed to be parked, the parking spot was empty. Thinking quickly, they persuaded the rental car van driver to rent them the van he was driving. However, upon arriving at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport after the long drive to pick up their cars in the parking garage, the group couldn't retrieve them because that airport was also closed.
Another printer, Randy Stover, director of client services at Valassis, ended up hiring a taxi to drive him to a mall in Ann Arbor, MI. The cab driver wanted $850, but Stover was able to negotiate the price down.
Chip Snyder, of ColorDynamics in Allen, TX, didn't have to find a way home from the show, but his story is perhaps the most poignant. "We had just finished a job for Morgan Stanley and had shipped samples by FedEx to several people working in the World Trade Center," he relates. But, after about a week, the packages started coming back. "As much as I remember the image of the first tower falling, I remember a pallet in our shipping department with half a dozen beat-up packages on it, returned as undeliverable from the Twin Towers—each one representing a person."
When all is said and done, the struggles of printers and industry suppliers these past years due to the see-saw economy, in combination with shrinking print demand and tight credit markets, pale in comparison to the lives lost from the 9/11 terrorist attack and the subsequent wars that it eventually ignited. Whether you're on the show floor opening day at GRAPH EXPO Sept. 11, or spending that Sunday in church, with loved ones or watching a football game, it's a perfect time to take a pause and reflect on our many blessings, and not on our challenges.
Mark T. Michelson