Sunday, September 11, 2005
Getting to Print05... Print01 Is Still With Us
The Print01 trip started strangely enough. On September 7, I arrived at Green Airport and realized that the center of my wallet had dropped out. That was, of course, the part of the wallet with family pictures and my identification. I walked up to the American counter, displayed my frequent flyer card and my credit cards, and after some harmless discussion I was given my boarding pass. That's wouldn't happen today,of course. It's paradoxical that the attackers all had ID's and were properly ticketed. Nonetheless, the innocent forgetting of ID is something I make sure wouldn't happen now. My wife FedEx'd me my drivers license and so on 9/10/01, I was processed normally at the ticket counter at O'Hare.
I remember distinctly being at O'Hare and getting to a payphone so that I could connect to AOL (my how things have changed, I long ago switched from AOL and haven't used dialup in years). I checked my messages and I had a note from classmates.com from a fellow student from grammar school. We hadn't seen or talked since grammar school graduation back in 1970. It was nice to hear from her. Life had treated her well, but it had some scary twists and turns in the process. She was happily married and living in Florida.
The morning of 9/11, I was sitting at my desk doing post-show followup, catching up with e-mails. Our son had just started sixth grade. I was watching CNBC as the events of that morning started to unfold. Something made me put a blank tape in the VCR and start recording. Maybe it was that the then suspected fire at the World Trade Center would be interesting historically since we had just been there the prior September.
That September 2000 day was just perfect. It was a Friday. Our son, a fifth grader, was surprised by our sudden trip to New York the night before. He was off on Friday because of a school planning day, we conspired to surprise him with a trip if the weather was going to cooperate. That Friday morning, we took the train from the Rye, NY Marriott Courtyard to Grand Central Station, then hopped the subway down to the ferry for the Statue of Liberty. Only the first couple of ferrys' passengers would be allowed to ascend the spiral staircase to the crown, which we did. Then we took the ferry from Liberty Island to Ellis Island for one of the best museum visits we have ever had. We still had time left, so around 2pm, we went to the top of the World Trade Center. It was one of those perfect weather days in New York. We stood on the observation deck and looked north toward Yonkers where we had grown up, to Long Island, where we lived for seven years, and then to the west toward New Jersey where I worked for a couple of years and where my father had worked for most of his adult life. It was hard to imagine Phippe Petit had walked a tightrope between the buildings. George Willig's signature on the inside of the facade was still visible, marking his climb up the side of the building. We ended the day with ice cream walking the shops of the WTC's underground pedestrian levels. We had left New York in 1989, and this trip back 11 years later as a tourist was more memorable than living there.
As we watched the second plane hit, all of these images came back to mind, our standing outside on the observation deck, the ride in the elevators, the inside observation, all so tastefully done, without the tacky plastic experience of the Empire State Building tour. The WTC was pure class, the kind of thing you'd expect in a city that's supposed to be great.
The e-mails with my former classmate started that morning. Neither of us could believe what had happened. Somehow, she started to make contact with others, and those next few days I connected online with a few more grammar school acquaintances. Somehow the WTC events made us more interested in corresponding. I found an eighth grade picture and was able to name every person, and we swapped notes about where some might be now or some story about who had a crush on whom or some particular event that made us remember them, usually fondly. It all seemed to help get through the horrible news as we all grieved.
I would find out a few days later that one of my first bosses died in the attack. He had retired, but had a one-day-a-week consulting job for a pension manager in the WTC. He had a heart attack as he headed down the stairs. The only blessing is that his family had a body to bury, unlike the numerous other families who had only memories. Though I worked for him as a teenager, things he said, jokes he told, and how he guided me are still a part of me and what I do. Tim O'Sullivan was a 6'8" 325 pound Irish giant, whom we suspect had even had green blood. If there was anyone who loved being Irish, it was he, with his infectious humor, and great affection for everyone with whom he worked.
Print01 was interrupted by 9/11, and for those who were at the show, interest shifted from the show floor to figuring out how to get home. Some of the stories showed incredible ingenuity, and were quite entertaining, and still are to this day. Let's hope that Print05 is memorable for all of the right reasons this time.