Stunned Solution Providers Scramble To Get Home To Loved Ones

"This is Pearl Harbor," said Rick Hamada, North American president of Avnet Computer Marketing, Hall-Mark Division, after the Avnet Partner Conference was shut down in the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. "Our role now is to make sure we make everyone as comfortable as possible and to help facilitate their plans in getting home."

Solution providers here at the Avnet Partner Conference were scrambling to rent cars, but all of the rental cars were gone at the San Antonio airport. Avnet arranged for rental cars to be brought to the conference site. Those who got rental cars are planning to drive thousands of miles home. Midwest solution providers at the conference were scrambling to rent a bus to get back to Chicago. But by mid-afternoon Avnet executives took control of the situation and rented buses to take solution providers home. Buses were being dispatched from San Antonio To Tempe, Toronto, Arksansas, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Florida. "This didn't come with the job description," said Fred Cuen, newly-appointed senior vice president and general manager of the Avnet-Hall-Mark IBM Business unit.

"Part of me is engraged, part of me wants to cry," said Tom Strickland, the marketing manager for Palarco Inc., a solution provider in Wayne, Pa."This is an act of war. More people could have been killed in the World Trade Center than America lost in Vietnam."

There was fear among IBMers here at the conference that they had lost colleagues in the tragedy."We have lost a number of colleagues, we just don't know how many," said Rod Adkins, general manager of IBM's Web Server Division, who said that IBM had a number of employees working in the World Trade Center. "IBM employees have been instructed to stay away from all federal buildings."

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"This is war, this changes the world forever," said Mark Scuderi, an IBM program manager from Rochester, NY. After hearing the news he called his wife in Rochester to ask her to check on some of his closest friends who work near the World Trade Center. Scuderi got back word that all of his close friends were okay.

After the shock and disbelief, solution providers began to reflect on the business impact. "We in this industry are more in tune with the world economy than others," said Harold Raeford, the business development manager at Impact Information Technologies, a solution provider in Norcross, Ga. "It is easier for us to understand how this will impact the entire world economy."

"It felt like a death in the family," said Synnex Chief Executive Bob Huang, who was at the distributor offices in Toronto to close the acquisition of Merisel Canada. "I still feel very heavy," he said. "It's going to have a major impact on the whole economy not just our industry. Remember Desert Storm in 1991 and 1992 had a huge impact on the stock market. You can almost imagine the impact this will have. We are hoping that (President George W.) Bush will take proper action and help the families to go through this tough time and the economy will come back before long. But it's very sad and I am very shocked like anybody else."

Jacob Christfort, the CTO and vice president of product development at Oracle Corp. who was at the CTIA show in San Diego at the time of the tragedy, said the tragedy reminds you of what is really important in life. That said, he noted that the industry needs to focus more on wireless applications that will serve the nation during a tragedy such as this one.

"We have been so focused on technology there has been very little focus on business applications that can make a difference in our society," he said, in reference to wireless communications that could help field workers dealing with a tragedy such as this one.

Meanwhile, Global integrator EDS, a major military contractor, said it has confirmed that two of its employees were injured in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon building. One of the employees was hospitalized with burns and another suffered lacerations and was treated and released from a local hospital.

The integrator, which includes a number of military and financial companies among its outsourcing clients, was continuing to assess the status of its personel, a company spokesperson said.

The EDS spokesman also said that all of its data centers were operating normally and that all of its customer's critical back-up systems were functioning. The only problems stemming from the attack result from a loss of telecom services for some WorldCom customers, which affected about 200 ATMs and "a couple of credit unions," the spokesman said.

Several hundred Sun Microsystems employees who work in the World Trade Center all managed to escape and were accounted for, said Gary Grimes, Sun's vice president for partner management and sales operations for the U.S. Sun has offices on the 25th and 26th floors of the World Trade Center.

Additional Reporting by Scott Campbell, Mike Cruz, Kristen Kenedy, John Longwell and Joe Kovar.