A Look Back at How HFTP Members Reacted to 9/11

The events of September 11, 2001, changed the world forever. There are some things that no matter how bad things get, they either don’t change for the worse or just become stronger. There is no doubt that the HFTP community became stronger after that day.

HFTP Members Rally Together

While the world was still reeling from the shock of the day, our officers at the time, Don Walton, John Cahill, Wendy Zurstadt, Tina Samson, Ginny Burke and I began planning what we could do.

On the afternoon of September 12, the following was sent to our membership on behalf of HFTP:

HFTP members throughout the world are sharing common feelings of outrage, frustration, sadness and concern over the tragic events in New York and Washington, D.C. Latest news reports indicate that there are at least 4,700 individuals missing. It is still unknown what the toll of human life and sacrifice in the aftermath of these attacks will be. As leaders of the hospitality industry, that have been touched by this tragedy, we have a unique challenge to demonstrate our effectiveness as leaders.

HFTP is working to arrange for support for the relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of these tragedies. We would like to ask that each of you begin today asking for contributions from your staff and your own organizations. We are collecting all donations at the HFTP International Office at 11709 Boulder Lane, Suite 110, Austin, Texas, 78726. Please make checks payable to HFTP September 11 Assistance Fund.

Using Technology to Form a Community of Support

Within a few hours of that e-mail — and without realizing how forward looking we were at the time — we asked for our members to post their comments and well wishes on our web site so that others would know their efforts, and in some cases, their whereabouts.

From the onset, support began.

From words of encouragement to financial donations. From offers of places to live to free meals for volunteers. The messages came in from all over the world.

We were an association that was united.

HFTP Annual Convention A Month Later

HFTP’s Annual Convention and Leadership Conference were scheduled to begin on October 17, 2001 in Phoenix, Ariz. As I recall it, there was never any real doubt that it would be cancelled. With support from our Board of Directors, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix and the HFTP staff, we published to the industry on September 17 that we would proceed as scheduled.

The response was once again, immediate and overwhelmingly positive.

At the time, we had no idea what flights would be like, how strict security was going to be, or even if employers would allow their key staff to travel. But, we moved forward, and as we did, our member’s spirits and the sense of community grew stronger.

Because of the extraordinary circumstances, we made some changes to assist those who could attend:

  • Added 24 hour Internet stations (practically unheard of at the time);
  • Changed the dress code so that attendees could pack less; and
  • For the first time, we streamed our general sessions so that those who could not travel could participate remotely.

We’re “Tight”

Recently, my step-son Niles, has been teaching me some of the jargon that teenagers use in everyday conversations. So, as I was preparing to write this blog, I was curious to find out how young adults who were six or seven at the time of 9/11 would describe us.

The word that came back — via text, of course — was “tight.”

Those of us who lived through 9/11 and its immediate aftermath experienced every emotion imaginable.

During the convention, we honored those who had lost their lives and the first responders who saved lives; we celebrated our family and friends; and we strengthened the foundation that HFTP was built upon.

It is evident that HFTP is more than an association — it is a community of individuals who care deeply about other human beings.

In the words of today’s generation, we ARE tight!

Frank Wolfe, CAE is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and an inductee into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame. He has been with HFTP for over 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @frankwolfe.

The pictures in this blog show the camaraderie among members at the 2001 HFTP Annual Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.

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