I can’t say I think about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks every day, or very often anymore.
But I can easily remember where I was when they occurred a decade ago this month - at my desk, working on Snips.
A radio was on in the background and the normally humorous morning-drive hosts suddenly became serious a little before 9 a.m. Eastern time, when the first plane hit one tower of New York City’s World Trade Center. The station stopped playing music and began simulcasting the news reports of one of the major TV networks.
I remember one of the disc jockeys suggesting it was a terrorist attack - something the news reports were unwilling to say until the second plane hit about 20 minutes later.
A co-worker walked past my office, and I told her what had happened. But I don’t think she grasped it, because she went back to what she was doing. But within a half hour, much of the company was crowded into a conference room watching the ensuing fire and chaos on a 27-inch television with poor reception.
After seeing one of the towers collapse, we were sent us home.
That fall was a rough time for sheet metal industry conferences and trade shows, as well as the overall American economy. A speaker scheduled to appear at one of the conferences Snips was to cover perished aboard one of the hijacked flights. Several industry events were canceled and those that were not saw staggering drops in attendance. I had been scheduled to fly Sept. 14, 2001, to Baltimore for a contractor visit, but never went.
ChangesAt the time of the attacks, I had only been on a handful of work trips for Snips, but I had been on enough to notice the difference when I did attend a trade show in Las Vegas about three weeks after Sept. 11. Besides the heavily armed National Guard troops roaming the airport, the same passenger screening workers who seemed largely indifferent about their jobs on prior trips were suddenly more like Army drill sergeants. The planes themselves were at least half empty.
The situation was similar at trade shows in Chicago and Florida a few weeks later. And I quickly discovered you could call convention hotels directly and get rooms for $100 a night less than they were charging before the attacks. They were happy just to fill the space.
A lot of people were wondering if the U.S. economy or travel would ever bounce back. But it did, surprisingly quickly. And although the U.S. stock market had some record drops in the days immediately after the tragedy, it also returned to record highs before the current recession erased many of those gains.
Air travel has never been quite the same, although passenger levels did rebound with the economy. Most travelers eventually accepted that along with quick security checks, food in coach class and free checked baggage were never coming back.
I don’t think about all these things every day, but they do occur to me every time I fly - and this month starts our fall travel season, attending trade shows in Atlanta, Colorado and even Hawaii. I grumble when I have to remember to leave the pocketknife I always carry at home or throw it away at the airport - again. I sigh that I have to remove my shoes while standing in line and trying to maintain my balance. I hope the Transportation Security Administration won’t notice that the lotion in my 1-quart carry-on bag is 2 ounces over the 3-ounce limit.
And I wonder why some trade show exhibitors continue to give out 3-foot-tall walking sticks when they’ll almost certainly be confiscated by TSA agents or thrown away by show attendees before they reach the gate.
Despite my complaints, I guess do feel safer knowing all these procedures are in place. Still, I wish I didn’t have to think about them every time I book a trip.