Remembering 9/11

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we’re republishing two accounts of that horrific day, told by event professionals and published in Convene in the months following the attacks.

Author: Convene Editors       

New York 9/11 Tower Lights

The Tribute in Light, two light beams shooting up four miles over New York City, memorialize those who died when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. (Jesse Mills/Unsplash)

This week, we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, when hijacked commercial airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, into the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania.

Here we share excerpts from two stories Convene published after the 9/11 attacks— and republished again in our 30th anniversary edition — that spotlight the effects of the tragedy on those in the business events industry.

‘Beyond Belief’

Seventy emergency doctors, nurses, and paramedics who were meeting on Sept. 11, 2001, at the Marriott Brooklyn to coordinate the Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) Trial were interrupted shortly after 9 a.m. by an announcement over the loudspeaker that “an incident has occurred at the World Trade Center,” and the request that they evacuate the building.

They headed like moths, one attendee recalled, to the Brooklyn Bridge and other points where they could see the fires and collapsed buildings across the East River. “What we saw seemed beyond belief, but the question quickly became, “What can we do?”’

The attendees divided themselves into four teams, three of which went into Manhattan near Ground Zero and St. Vincent’s Hospital, and one of which set up a first-aid center in the hotel’s ballroom.

“As people continued to pour over the Brooklyn Bridge for several hours, the hotel opened its doors to anyone who wanted shelter, medical help, or a place to clean up or watch the news.… More than 300 Manhattan evacuees were registered and treated at the first-aid center by the end of the day.

“‘I thought the line of people would never stop,’ said [meeting organizer Margit] Scholz. ‘People were covered with white plaster. Some had no purses, no money, no identification. One businessman had come down from the 84th floor of the tower and had no wallet, no anything. Some had no shoes, with abrasions and blisters on their feet.’”

— “From Brooklyn to Ground Zero,” December 2001

‘America Is for Everyone’

“Shortly after Sept. 11, a bookkeeper with the American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO) sat down at home with her mother and father, discussing her fears that the terrorist attacks would disastrously affect the upcoming annual meeting. Her young son, who had been nearby, disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a drawing.

“’He drew an American flag and four little kids shaped like ‘South Park’ characters,’ said David Noonan, AAO deputy executive vice president. ‘There were boys and girls, Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and Caucasian.’ On the front the drawing read, ‘America is for everyone,’ and on the back was written, ‘Please send this to all of your doctors so they will come for the meeting.’

“When the child’s mother brought the drawing to work the next day, the entire office was struck by the simplicity of its message. ‘That kid had, in just a heartbeat, captured the sense of the entire period,’ Noonan said.

“AAO posted the drawing on its website, and staff executives decided to use it as a T-shirt design for attendees. The drawing became a common sight throughout the annual meeting. And when the American Medical Association held its annual meeting, AAO sent the same T-shirts to sell to AMA attendees as well.”

— “Through a Child’s Eyes,” September 2002