Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality and meetings industry trainer, facilitator, and risk management consultant, wrote about the emotional toll on those left behind, not only the family and friends of the victims, but those at the conference. (The conference went on, dedicated to the victims.) “There is the horrible issue of those who a) made it to the conference who will mourn and need counseling, and decisions about whether or not to proceed with the conference or how to handle the absence of presenters; and b) those who were to fly later and will not attend because they are either fearful or their families or research facilities or hospitals cannot afford to lose more personnel.

“On the one hand, many of us in this industry plan for the worst-case scenario. Would this have been in my emergency plans? Probably not like this.

“Even if the loss is not 'personal'—that is, even if one didn't directly know a person who died or who had a tragedy—we have empathy and we feel the losses. How could one not? And when the loss is so personal, as it was with the AIDS conference, how could everyone there not need time to grieve, process, and to talk with others?

We have to ensure that we are able to manage the logistics of an accident or tragedy and the emotions while putting our own grief on hold.”

Adding yet another skill set to the multiple roles of meeting planner: grief counselor. We thank you, and all those who comfort anyone in pain, through times of trouble.