Mid-Year Conference canceled
By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor
During the terrorist attack on the U.S. Pentagon, the WQA director was caught at a meeting in Washington, DC. After returning to Chicago, it was determined airline safety, other national priorities and logistics precluded continuing plans to hold the Mid-Year Leadership Conference, which was scheduled for Sept. 19-22 in Sedona, AZ.
This is the first time a WQA conference has been canceled. Special discount fares have been arranged with Amtrak for those planning to attend the WQA Annual Convention in New Orleans in March 2002.
Caught in the crossfire
While attending a meeting Sept. 11 of the Environmental Technology Trade Advisory Committee (ETTAC) in Washington, D.C., Peter Censky was witness firsthand to the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the U.S. Pentagon.
The meeting was in the U.S. Department of Commerce building and Censky said alarms suddenly went off in the building.
“Bells were ringing and sirens going off,” he said. “We were told the Pentagon had been hit and looked out the windows. We watched flames just boiling out of the building. Then a moment later, we were told the World Trade Center had been hit also and so we knew it was a terrorist attack.”
Censky said a fourth plane was reported about the same time they heard the third had aimed initially at the White House, to which the Commerce Department building is adjacent.
“This is before we had fighter pilots up and there was a question as to whether it would be shot down,” he added. It wasn’t learned until later that a group of passengers on that plane heroically attacked the hijackers, giving their lives as the fourth plane went down in the Pennsylvania countryside.
After the initial chaos subsided, Censky said soldiers remained on rooftops with machine guns and “stinger” rockets in case of continued attacks.
Since airports were closed, Censky was stuck in the nation’s capital until Wednesday, when he hitched a ride with friends to Ohio where he rented a car and drove back to WQA headquarters in Chicago.
On the way, he called and notified staff that WQA’s Mid-Year Leadership Conference might need to be canceled. That has since occurred, as reported at https://wcponline.com on Sept. 14 and in WC&P’s October “Viewpoint.”
Censky said there were varied opinions among WQA Board of Governors members and others he contacted as to whether to cancel the event. Some people felt that canceling such events sent the wrong message to terrorists that they may have succeeded in intimidating the United States.
Censky noted, however, “We are not essential travel. There are people still striving to get home, people ill, people awaiting donor organs or medical supplies.” The final decision was made after speaking with WQA past president Jamie Wakem, Atlantic Filter, West Palm Beach, Fla., who reminded Censky that tropical storm Gabrielle was headed up the East Coast. “It’s inappropriate for us at a time of national crisis… simply to try to get back to a state of normalcy on the silly reason that, if we don’t, the terrorists will win. It doesn’t work like that—not now, not ever again.”
In the end, he said, everyone supported his decision to cancel Mid-Year.
Censky said alternative transportation methods are already being thought of to ease traveling fears and burdens during the WQA Annual Convention & Exhibition in New Orleans in March.
“We’ve been working with Amtrak to try a new approach for people to travel and avoid the airlines to get to the show,” he said. “We’ve arranged for a 10 percent discount off the lowest fare price for people participating in the convention in New Orleans.”
Next year’s WQA Mid-Year conference—now planned for upstate New York—may be rescheduled for Sedona, he added. In the meantime, refunds are to be sent out for registration to last month’s event unless otherwise specified by the registree.
Censky said that the Mid-Year event actually costs the association more than it brings in as far as income: “So, in effect, by canceling it, we’re saving money.” Those who contributed to the golf and tennis tournaments at the event (which serve as fund-raisers for the Water Quality Research Council) would be refunded as well.
WC&P has suggested that all those receiving refunds call and have them redirected as donations to the WQRC.
Meanwhile, WQA’s Peggy Blazek said as many of the meetings and functions that normally would be done at the Mid-Year conference would be completed via teleconferencing and/or email.