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Quotes from World Media, Agencies and Associations, including the Meeting Planners

Map of North AmericaMOMENT OF CLARITY: "The fact that regimes like Russia, China, Iran, Syria, and others are committing themselves, at least nominally, to aiding the emerging coalition against terror suggests that a fundamental shift might be underway. It may well be that among states addicted to the poison of terror, the horrific scale of the attacks on New York and Washington have produced what alcoholics call a "moment of clarity," a sudden realization of the need to change old habits." Tom Nichols, Professor

MEETING PLANNERS' “WORST - CASE SCENARIO" : Since many of our meetings are held overseas, we train our planners to anticipate the worst case scenario and plan accordingly. Today - we are facing what has to be the ultimate worst case scenario. We never anticipated anything like it. Sad to say, we are unprepared.

When the attack took place on Sept 11, our advance party was already in Cairo, Egypt. with most of our supplies - conference bags, badges, certificates of participation in papyrus- participants' names handpainted in hieroglyphics, silver cartouche for speakers and other unique items from the Land of the Pharaohs. The International Technology, Meetings and Incentives Conference for meeting professionals was scheduled to start on Sept 16 with a dinner and Light and Sound Show at the Great Pyramids, meetings industry sessions on a Nile cruise and close at the Mediterranean Travel Fair in Cairo.

I was booked on an Egypt Air flight 2 days later. My bags were packed, tickets and passport in my purse.

Minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, my phone was ringing off the hook and my computer started buzzing with dozens of email. These multiplied rapidly minutes after the Pentagon, a few miles from our office, was hit. Dumbfounded, I stared simultaneously at and the television - desperately hoping one or the other would say this is a hoax.

As I tried to gather my wits around me - I sent out the first of several email to all participants. "Please don't panic. I will keep you updated.".

For over a year, we had been anticipating a meeting at the Great Pyramids and on the River Nile with great excitement. The destination that was so intriguing because of its wonders, treasures and exotic culture - now suddenly seemed so dangerous.

Meanwhile I was trying to trace the whereabouts of 2 colleagues who were scheduled to meet with an American Express executive at the World Trade Center that morning. Please, Lord, I prayed, let them be safe.

I spent countless hours chasing information sources. Both the Department of State and the US Embassy in Cairo said there are no apparent signs that US citizens are in imminent danger in Egypt. They are neither evacuating US citizens nor issuing a travel advisory to Egypt. The Minister of Tourism of Egypt himself called to assure me that we will be safe and that he will personally see that we are very well taken cared of. Security had been increased 200% at the airport and in all tourist attractions. Marshals are now in every tour bus. Our DMC let me talk with the leader of another American group who was having their annual meeting in Cairo at the time of the attack. They are proceeding normally, he said. The only difference he could see was that there are guards everywhere and strangers were stopping them in the streets saying, "Americans - we love you. Don't be afraid".

"Please don't cancel, " our DMC pleaded. "Egypt is safe. Your group will be treated royally here. Everything is all set"

With all the security measures in US airports, this seemed to be the safest time to travel.

But the participants were shaken and grieving. As the departure dates came closer, it became painfully obvious that we will not be able to achieve the objectives of the conference. It would be difficult to focus on the agenda and enjoy the wonders of this unique destination when you are jittery and can only think of what's happening to your family back home.

Some participants disagreed, "If we cancel, we let the terrorists win".

Thank God for email - we quickly reached a consensus: Re-schedule.

Time was of the essence. A couple of professional colleagues and personal friends were still unaccounted for. "6000 body bags ordered for New York", the news launched a thousand butterflies in my stomach. The computer buzzed - another urgent email. "I am afraid that meeting was confirmed for 9:00 am Sept 11. They had to be at the World Trade Center no later than 8:45 am. And guess what - Linda was supposed to be at a meeting at the Pentagon 10:00 am Sept 11, too. I will keep calling - and let you know."

We still do not know.

The Egypt meeting is now re-scheduled to January 11-15, 2002, just before our meeting in Paris, France. We gave free registration for the Paris meeting to all those re-scheduling. We asked Egypt Air to allow them to add Paris without additional charge.

Through the tears, we are busy revamping the agenda to address the new realities in our suddenly changed world. How does this impact the meetings industry? What can we do? A participant asked "If we understand each other more, wouldn't we fear each other less?"

The program is shaping up to be richer, more substantive - than it had ever been.

A speaker from Great Britain has offered to "share with you my experiences of terrorism ( a couple of close calls) in London and how the British people have learnt to live with the constant threat".

We have issued a call for speakers who can discuss the implications of this tragedy in our industry and what we can do.

An economist member wrote "What we can do - in the simplest terms, is make more money. It is our patriotic duty to turbo-prop our businesses and spend more money to help the world economy. I will bring a venture capitalist and someone from the Small Business Administration if that will help"

We will set up small partnering sessions where we can explore the possibility of partnering with colleagues around the world in setting up trade missions, study tours, business conferences and others. Now, more than ever, is the time to internationalize. Another email said "We cannot retreat to our homes and hide from the world. The world that sees less of us belongs more to them".

Technology is taking center stage in the war against terrorism. We must all be internet - savvy - not just to help us in our jobs but also to watch out for dangerous thought patterns that can threaten our lives. We will enhance all the scheduled sessions on technology including "Building Online Communities".

We will revamp our Children's event to a half-day children's camp for world understanding and tolerance We have been hosting disadvantaged children just before the start of our annual conference for several years now. It has been one of our small successes. At a recent lunch with our partners in Costa Rica, Thailand and Morocco, they told me how, months after the event, everytime the children drive or walk by the hotel, they want to go in and see the "kind Americans".

Little acts of kindness. These are not hard to do.

We trust our powerful military will take care of the evil adults. We will focus on the children. We need volunteers to take this children's camp for tolerance and understanding around the world quickly. Help is needed in developing learning materials and fundraising plans. Please see

With 3 precious colleagues still missing (MISSING?) , I am exhausted and emotionally drained..

Worst case scenario. Could anyone have imagined this? It is tempting to just sit here and whine, "Why us? Why here?" - but that will not do any good. So I keep planning... and keep on going.....

This tragedy has affected us all. But I am determined that it will not defeat us.

Andrea Sigler,PhD
President, CIMPA

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