As PRINT 01 Remained Opened, Many Transactions Ceased
Hank Brandtjen, President, Brandtjen & Kluge, Saint Croix Falls, WI
My memories of 9/11 are, of course, vivid. With the trade show opening at 10 am, I was at our hotel, the Sheraton, having breakfast on the top floor with some of my employees. There were a few televisions on in the breakfast area but, when the first plane hit, the event was not yet on live TV. When it went live, no one panicked. Most of us were of the belief that a small plane had crashed into the one tower as the result of the pilot suffering a heart attack or something. When the second plane hit, we, of course, saw that live and even then my mind did not believe it was an act of terrorism. My first thought was what are the odds of two plane failures in one day? Within seconds, though, I knew what we were really facing, and for the rest of the morning we sat there watching the events unfold.
Eventually, we made it to the show. The president of GASC at that time was Regis Delmontagne, and there was a meeting to decide if PRINT 01 should be closed. We debated the idea if McCormick Place was a possible terrorist target and that maybe we should evacuate the show grounds.
Instead, the show was allowed to open.
In reality, while the show was open, business was through. Every TV onsite, from the small ones in the outer kiosks to the large movie screens in the Heidelberg stand, were tuned to news coverage. Any thought of transacting business was over and, rightly so, all thoughts turned towards getting home, family, and concern for people directly impacted by the events of the day.
Some companies chartered buses to get people home. Rental cars became scarce and there were stories about people purchasing used cars just to get home. Living in Minnesota, Amtrak became an option, except even that became sold out. For Kluge, anyone who managed to find a way home was free to leave. Car pooling across country with strangers became the norm.
Personally, I stayed to help tear down the stand. This means I stayed in Chicago until the 14th and eventually car pooled home with friends who were driving a rental car up to the Twin Cities from Florida.
On the night of the 11th, Prime UV was hosting its reception at a Chicago eatery. It was surreal to be there. Only vendors showed up. The streets were so quiet and not a plane was in the sky. No doubt we were gathering just to be near people and friends.