As the nation, paralyzed with horror, watched the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon September 11, people throughout the meeting industry united to help colleagues in need. One vital source of information was the Meeting Industry Mall listserv (www.mim.com), where participants traded news on people's whereabouts, offered to contact others' loved ones when phone lines became jammed, and opened their homes to stranded travelers.
Listserv members also started ashuttle relay service, with various members offering to drive colleagues a few hours, who then would be picked up by other members, and so on, to bring them home step by step.
“The outpouring of good will from the list was one of the most amazing displays of giving I have ever witnessed, or probably will ever witness,” said Joan Eisenstodt, the list's facilitator.
The hospitality industry rallied with a show of support, both from hotels near the tragedies and those thousands of miles away. The Sheraton Suites Alexandria, Va., located near the Pentagon, provided rooms at no cost to SWAT teams working around the clock, reported general manager John Varghese. They also offered free rooms to Salvation Army workers. When the hotel asked for volunteers to provide 200 sandwiches for the Salvation Army, more than 75 employees stepped forward, providing enough food for 1,000 people.
In Denver, Colo., the Convention and Visitors Bureau set up its housing department as a clearinghouse for people who were stranded by the shutdown of Denver International Airport, reported spokeswoman Jill Strunk. It gathered information on available rooms at all metro and area hotels, and also on local citizens who were willing to open their homes to travelers who couldn't afford to stay in a hotel.