As I write, it’s but two days away from the 10th anniversary of the events we’ve all come to know by their date, 9/11. A week prior to 9/11/2001, I was on an early-morning flight to New York City, our approach to LaGuardia giving a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline—my last to include the Twin Towers. A week later at the same time of day, co-workers told me to turn on the TV, that something major was happening in NYC.
Events unfolded in a combination of the images from the TV and calls with PSN’s staff, some peering south from office windows, some relating what they’d seen from the street as they walked from their morning train. Soon, they all had far more pressing concerns than keeping me updated. The magnitude of the unfolding events were hard to comprehend, it was all so surreal—something that happens in movies, not in reality. Our national innocence was ripped asunder, much as with Pearl Harbor, decades prior. But this time, the enemy was dispersed in the shadows, less identifiable. The senselessness, the pointlessness and random victimization of the carnage are still mentally staggering.
Returning to NYC in late November of 2001 for the delayed 111th AES Convention, I went with friends to the still-smoldering Ground Zero. We walked among the tributes to the fallen, the innocents and heroes who died trying to save as many as they could. We looked down upon the rubble, up to the scarred facades of surrounding buildings, and I dare say we all shed at least a tear or two. A few years later, back in NYC, visiting Ground Zero was a different experience—not creeping up side streets to see what could be seen, but moving along the access ways and viewing stations built to accommodate the throngs of humanity that still needed to say they’d been there, that they’d seen what was by then a clean but gaping hole deep into the underground infrastructure of Manhattan.
As this 10th anniversary of 9/11 is being acknowledged, television is filled with looks back at the events of the day, endless replaying of the remarkable video images from the assault on the Twin Towers, to their collapse and the subsequent battle to help the wounded, to facilitate evacuation. We’re also meeting those still victimized by the attack, leading different lives than they would have otherwise, the gaping holes, in their cases, left in their hearts.
The 111th AES Convention of 2001 was a much smaller event than it would have been if the world hadn’t changed 11 weeks prior. Still, though some exhibitors were not able to participate, though thousands of attendees stayed home, for those of us who did attend, it was a special experience. There were all the usual convention elements, to be sure, but there was an extra element of bonding, of shared purpose.
Now, a decade later, it’s early September and plans are underway for another pilgrimage to NYC for the 131st AES Convention. It’s a changed world, because of 9/11, because of international economic woes. We’re a changed industry, because of the impact of those macro elements, and because of the equally wide-reaching effects of technological change.
It’s a pilgrimage I look forward to, nonetheless. To return to NYC 10 years later, to walk those streets again and say, we as a nation, as a people, persevere. To return to the Javits Center, to walk along the exhibition aisles and down the corridors of event rooms and say, we as an industry persevere. I hope to walk with you.