A Decade Later

It was over! We declared victory and withdrew to a Hampton Inn near O’Hare airport for a good night’s sleep prior to a morning flight home. Graph Expo 2011 was in the books. It came, it was, it went. After four days of putting together the Graph Expo Show Daily—which came after several weeks of assembling the pre-printed pages—Karen and I were more than ready to head back to the hills.

Don’t get me wrong, producing the Show Daily was an engaging (and profitable) endeavor, and we are only a small part of the Cygnus team that made it all possible. However, I’m glad it only comes around once a year because we were, in the country vernacular, wore plumb out.

The 2011 show opened on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and there was a pause so attendees could participate in the national moment of silence. There also was a memorial ceremony. Like most people, I found myself thinking back to that day 10 years ago.

I had left Print 2001 the night of September 10 and was way down in an exhausted sleep late the next morning when Karen shook me awake. “We’re being attacked,” she said. I was only half awake and started to reach for the shotgun to ward off intruders. Then she explained that she had just seen a plane fly into the World Trade Center.

Back in Chicago, organizers were being urged by the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois to keep the show open so that the attendees wouldn’t be put out into the streets. Airports were closed, rental cars were at a premium, trains and busses were booked solid. One organizer I spoke with remembers being lucky enough to have already rented a car. On his drive home to New York City, he recalls seeing taxis with Illinois license plates as far east as Pennsylvania.

Other than the terrible television images that are stuck in my mind, the thing I remember most in the days after the attacks was the eerie lack of jet contrails in the sky. We live at the crossroads of many east/west, north/south flight paths and the sky is normally criss-crossed with vapor trails.

The world has changed in many ways since September 11, 2001. We have fought two wars, created a vast anti-terror bureaucracy, and instituted a fairly ridiculous color-coded terror alert system which, thankfully, finally has been phased out. Airport security is intrusive and probably not very effective, since not all bags and cargo are screened.

We may or may not be any safer than we were in 2001, but one thing has become obvious over the past decade—we all have continued on with our lives. If we hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been a Graph Expo 2011.