At around 6 AM west coast time, 17 years ago today, my wife called my cell phone and asked if I was watching “Good Morning America.” At the time, I was at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas getting ready to attend the NBWA’s annual conference morning events. Shortly after switching the channel to the news program, I watched the incidents unfold at New York’s World Trade Towers. It was then that I received another call.
This call was from the VP of Malts at Glazer’s, my employer at the time. At his suggestion, I quickly contacted the in-house travel agent for Glazer’s and asked to reserve a van at the Las Vegas airport. Within minutes we were all downstairs in the lobby with other beer industry wholesalers, brewery reps, and state association members. We were all trying to understand the events that were occurring in our nation. We had just heard from one of the state executives who had a contact at the White House that there would be no commercial flights until the weekend. All U.S. airline flights had been canceled.
We made the decision to grab the van that I had earlier reserved and make the drive back to Dallas. The VP and I headed to the Dollar Rental office, where approximately 50 other people waited in line for rental cars. The Dollar employees handed out bottled water and cookies while the stunned patrons awaited their turn to secure a vehicle. By the time we got to the counter, there were only two vans left. We quickly secured one of the vans and headed back to the MGM hotel, loaded our Glazer’s team members and stopped by a convenience store to obtain food for the long drive home.
A number of the beer industry people at the NBWA convention had decided to stay in Vegas, but many others searched for ways to return home. Some people, once they learned there were no more rental vehicles, actually bought cars in order to get home.
Because Hoover Dam was closed, we drove west and around the dam from Vegas to Albuquerque, arriving in New Mexico sometime after midnight. During the entire drive, we were glued to the radio trying to discern what had happened. The van was dead-quiet throughout most of the drive.
We left Albuquerque early the next morning, arriving in Dallas late on the afternoon of September 12th. Upon arrival at the Dollar Rental car location at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, we found the typical 12,000 rental car inventory at the DFW airport had all been rented. All the lots were completely empty. The return of our rental van from Las Vegas was the only vehicle, not only the Dollar Rental location, but all the rental car locations at the airport. It was an unbelievable sight.
By now the country knew what had happened in New York. Glazer’s, like many companies, grounded its employees from flying for a while. Many beer industry people who had stayed in Vegas were able to fly out on Saturday. Security lines were a nightmare with over five-hour waits to get on the planes.
Today, September 11, 2018, marks the seventeenth anniversary of that fateful day. The world has never been the same. And, just as the world has changed, so the beer industry has changed dramatically in the past 17 years.
In three years the NBWA convention will return to Las Vegas. Those of us there on September 11, 2001 should gather together and recall that ominous day 20 years ago. It was a day that would define the world.
Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories.