Six years ago on 9/11, I was in Davenport, Iowa for the 2001FGS/Quad Cities Genealogical Conference. The conference was to begin the next day. A cadre of volunteers had been planning this conference for five years. I was sitting in my hotel room working on the first of the daily newsletters for that conference. I had the TV on but it was on mute. I looked up at one point and saw some pictures on the news that I figured were some archival footage. The telephone rang and it was Sue Kaufman, one of the conference publicity chairs. She asked if I had the TV turned on and broke the horrible news to me that the images I was seeing were current and not plane crashes from some old movie.
The rest of that day and the days that followed are still sort of blurry in my mind. The FGS Board decided to have the conference proceed. There were already hundreds of registrants onsite and they could not fly back home. Each day the same cadre of volunteers and additional folks rebuilt the next day’s sessions depending on which speakers had arrived in town. Several speakers who had airline flights cancelled, got into cars, some picked up others, and drove across several states to be with the rest of us. Some arrived without their suitcases. Registrants and exhibitors made similar efforts to reach the conference. The registrants were great – they accepted the ever-changing program. That daily newsletter turned out to be a vital daily update.
As a conference chair, I met with representatives of the police department and facility staff. A plan of action was determined and the main aim was to make sure people were OK and that the police would be guarding us – unobtrusively. The two federal buildings in the vicinity made this an important decision. I will never be able to listen to God Bless America again without crying. There were several renditions of it that week – including hundreds of us at once. A huge U.S. flag was hung in the lobby and a large TV was placed there by the convention center for us all to view what was going on. So many people were affected directly by the terror of that day and suffered losses of special family members and friends. The people who worked in the aftermath day in and day out in New York, Pennsylvania, and in Virginia at the Pentagon served their fellow men and women and many of those workers bear lasting scars. The men and women who still serve as our protectors deserve our thanks, no matter our political leaning.
The camaraderie and support evident that week in the Quad Cities is indelibly marked on my mind and that of the other 1,400 people who were at the conference. You know who you are – we have a special bond.
© 2007, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.