Capturing the spirit of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, which met at the Hynes Convention Center just two days after bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a board member closed the conference by quoting noted author Salman Rushdie:
“How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.”
Friday night, April 19, while ASCA was having its closing ceremony, law enforcement officials were in the process of chasing down and apprehending the suspected bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was hiding in a boat only a few miles away in Watertown, Mass. But ASCA officials and attendees kept calm and carried on with only a few hiccups to the planned program.
Because of the bombing, the exhibition hall at the Hynes, which is just a couple of blocks from the crime scene, didn’t open until midnight on Tuesday. That meant that the show organizers had to work through the night to get the hall ready for exhibitors to set up their booths for thethat opened Wednesday at 6 p.m.
In addition, the closing night party was originally scheduled to take place off site, but because of the “shelter-in-place” request by the governor on Friday during the manhunt, the association had to change plans. Working in concert with convention center staff, ASCA planners quickly turned a large function space upstairs at the Hynes into a venue for the closing night party, with views overlooking Boylston Street a few blocks up from the finish line.
Also because of the bombings, a few session presenters couldn’t make it to Boston. Instead of canceling sessions, though, ASCA found experts in attendance who volunteered to lead the discussions. All the keynoters made it to Boston.
One of the luncheons also was moved to a large hallway in the convention center and changed from a plated meal to a buffet, because not enough of the servers could get to the convention center that day. But the attendees didn’t even blink. “We worked to stay in contact with our members regularly throughout the meeting with updated safety reports and any schedule changes that were required,” says William Prentice, chief executive officer at Alexandria, Va.-based ASCA.
Overall, ASCA had minimal cancellations, and the approximately 2,000 attendees who came (final numbers have not yet been tabulated) were about what the organization expected. There were also a few exhibitors that didn’t make it, but not a significant number, said officials.
Tightened Security Measures
Police and investigators were on the scene constantly throughout the week, and the area in front of the convention center was heavily secured with armed police personnel. Security was heightened with all attendees asked to enter through the attached Prudential Center and show identification. Bomb-sniffing dogs had gone through the facility before the meeting and showed up again to check for bombs during the meeting.
Traffic was blocked from the crime scene, but other sections of Boylston Street and the surrounding Back Bay area were open. Many of the ASCA attendees ventured out during the week to go to restaurants and enjoy what Boston has to offer.
Association officials reported no out-of-the-ordinary delays at Boston’s Logan Airport. The meeting ended Saturday morning, the day after the suspect had been caught. Some attendees stayed an extra day to enjoy the city. Over at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Experimental Biology Association met, April 20-24. (Boston Comic Con at the Hynes, April 20-21, was postponed).
ASCA attendees felt strongly about supporting the city in the face of this tragic situation. “Many of the local residents, and many of our meeting attendees, thanked ASCA for moving ahead with our meeting despite the attacks and the events that continued in the city during the week that followed as law enforcement officials worked to apprehend the suspects,” says Prentice.
The association also collected donations from attendees, which ASCA matched, to go to One Fund Boston to help injured bombing victims.