PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 12, 5 p.m. EDT) — The International Public Works Congress went on Sept. 11, but for the last few hours it was without plastics pipe manufacturers.
Exhibitors scattered about three hours short of closing time at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, despite a decision by the American Public Works Association Show board to keep the event open. Some attendees worried that the City of Brotherly Love was next on terrorists' lists.
“This is not the best place to be,” said Ted Taylor, sales manager with KWH Pipe Canada Ltd., as he took down displays and looked forward to hopping in his rental car to make the 12-hour drive home to Canada.
The sentiment was similar among all: Philadelphia was an East Coast city. Terror struck too near and it was time to go home.
Two booths down, a flier from Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP's Performance Pipe division littered the floor, the only remnant of the Richardson, Texas-based company's presence at the show. Moments earlier, sales engineer Ron Brown had cleaned out the booth, only pausing to dial out on his cell phone. For him, the tragic events already had affected his hometown.
“I live near Pittsburgh,” he said as he waited for an answer on the phone, relaying the news that United Flight 93 had gone down outside of Pittsburgh. “I can't get through to my wife.”
The show did not see much action during the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. exhibit hours, since attendees crowded around television screens instead of walking the show floor. When the polyethylene pipe row had cleared out, however, one group did remain: the Washington-based Plastics Pipe Institute.
“We're sitting tight,” said Dave Allison, applications engineering manager with PPI. His motto seemed to be “No Fear.”
“I've been shot down twice in helicopters,” he said, referring to his time in the military. And besides, why should he be in a rush to get home?
“Washington is literally shut down,” he said.
Sept. 11 was the show's last day, although educational sessions ran through Sept. 12.