I was in a conference room in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. My team arrived the day before so we could settle in for a month long business development audit. We arrived at 8:30am and started setting up our workroom, plugging in our laptops and securing office supplies. As usual, we logged on to the Brasilian network, and then we logged on into our company intranet. Some one was pulling down business processes, another person was going to archives online to see past audits and audit findings. Others were catching up on email. I was scheduling meetings and sending out invitations. Our Kick off meeting was at 10:00 AM Rio time/9:00 New York time. Our custom is to set up all conference calls to start 15 minutes ahead of the hour so that if there were any problems, these would be resolved by the time the executives arrived.
About twenty minutes before the hour we headed up to the conference room to get settled in and do last minute preparations, I.e. connecting to the web and making people had access to our documentation online. There were already several host team members in the room also getting ready. At 15 minutes before the hour, we started the conference call start up...started checking connectivity. Since I was the guest host at exactly 15 minutes before the hour I would declare the conference open by sending an email to all invitees. Our custom was that every center that was invited was supposed to reply with a we're here message. So less than a minute later, we got our first reply from Sao Paolo, Brasil. We waited a couple more minutes, we still hadn't heard from Armonk or Poughkeepsie in New York. 10 minutes before the hour we send a technician to find out why our Internet connection was slow. Two minutes later, a technician came back and said there was a horrible accident, a commuter plan had hit the World Trade Center and all communications to the US was being rerouted to other trunk lines via Chicago.
At 10:00am, we finally got an email message from a New York based executive telling us that our conference call was postponed and that we were all to stay in the building for further instructions. Since we had several New York based teammates, they all got on their cell phones and started calling home. they got nothing but busy signals. Then we all started emailing other contacts in the U S A to see what was going on, no replies.
Even though I was many miles away and in another hemisphere I shall always remember how terrorized I felt when nothing and no one had any news. And I shall always remember how sad, appalled, and angry I felt when I did get the news. It was a shocking time.