Marooned Conference-goers Cope With Tragedy11:56 AM EST Thu. Sep. 13, 2001
Business transactions have taken a back seat to human pathos this week, as computer industry officials struggled to cope with the aftermath of the World Trade Center terrorist bombing.
++Industry conferences were scaled back or canceled outright. With airplanes grounded, thousands of attendees were marooned at conference sites. Many struggled to make alternate ground arrangements to get home. Others simply accepted the inevitable and watch the horrendous event unfold on large-screen televisions.Some workd using hotel rooms and cell phones.
++At the Networld Interop conference in Atlanta, executives describe the mood as somber, with some of the largest vendors closing down their exhibits. The conference goes on, but exhibit hours are scaled back.
++"Once we determined the facts of the situation, it was decided Novell would close, and we never re-opened our [exhibit] booth," says John Pilmer. a Novell executive. "The company is focused on its people and its customers. There has been a great outpouring of effort from the company to take care of the human factor before we even address the economic of the loss. It was a hard day yesterday and it is a hard day today."
++Pilmer says the company chartered a bus for Novell employees who wanted to make the long, multi-day drive home to Utah.
++However, other executives attending the show said some conference business is occurring, albeit on a more limited scale.
"There is a little bit of business. We did get some business done," says Byron Rashed, senior marketing communications manager for SSH Communications Security, Palo Alto, Calif.
Rashed noted some large exhibitors such as Microsoft and Intel permanently shut down their exhibit booths Tuesday afternoon.
"There are still people here, but it's light,"Rashed says.
Many watched news of the terrorist action on video monitors that were set up.
"Our CEO, George Adams, is here with us and very supportive, asking how people feel," he says. "He's been concerned for the staff members traveling."
Rashed says he plans to remain at the show until it ends and is scheduled to fly back to California on Sunday.
++ "Delays and layovers are common when traveling," he says. "We're trying to make the staff as comfortable as possible. You have to make the best of an imperfect situation."
++ Adams says employee safety is his top concern.
"At SSH every employee is a pat of the family, and their safety will never be jeopardized,"he says.
++ Attendees at InformationWeek conference on Collaborative Computing, sponsored by CMP Media, the parent company of VARBusiness, in Tucson, Ariz. found themselves scurrying to organize car pools--or extend their stay in Arizona--as the airline grounding continued. The conference started Sunday night and was scheduled to wrap up Wednesday morning. However, the event was greatly scaled down on Tuesday as some 300 attendees watched the drama on big-screen televisions and largely abandoned the structured presentations.
++ Signs were posted by conference organizers noting that in light of the national tragedy, most official events had been canceled, including a Tuesday evening concert by jazz legend Ray Charles.
++ By Tuesday afternoon, rental cars were in short supply. One group of about 14 southern California conference attendees chartered a bus for a nine-hour trip that crossed the Mohave Desert and dropped off passengers at the Amtrak station in San Diego, and hotels in Irvine, Calif., and Los Angeles. Some listened to news of the unfolding drama on a portable radio.