On Sept 11, 2001, a traumatic incident left an indelible mark on society and all of the lives that were involved. I am sure that you can remember exactly what you were doing when you heard it on the radio or saw the plane hit the twin tower building. I can remember exactly watching the TV in the lab with shock and disbelief, knowing nothing was ever going to be the same. That day I also wondered how this would affect the year of preparation and attendance of the NSH Symposium because within a few weeks, I was hosting the NSH Symposium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A flood of calls came from members, faculty, exhibitors and registrants into the NSH office, since in many cases employers were banning air travel, not knowing if an attack would occur again. Urgently NSH board meetings were scheduled to analyze the financial damage if we had to cancel. However, at such a late date, there was no choice but to continue with the Symposium as planned.
It has been said many times that histotechs are resilient to change and if there is a will, they find the way. Besides, the bond between histotechs is strong and some look forward all year to see the faces of their extended family at the Symposium. Many participants and faculty started early and made a fun road trip of driving to North Carolina. In particular, I remember one vendor that rented a bus all the way from Michigan!
As you can imagine many faculty cancelled but we scurried to ask people if they could give a substitute lecture or even the same workshop subject. Peggy Wenk did eight workshops that week! For those who remember her, she never said no for a chance to share her knowledge.
At the week's end the attendance was lower than expected, but still had 956 dedicated histology professionals in attendance. The awards banquet was standing room only. As the band started the first song “God Bless America”, you could feel the solidarity in the room as everyone started to sing. It was a tearful moment watching the hugs of support. I think everyone just needed to be close to each other and reassured that everything was going back to normal.
This should all sound very familiar since this same scenario happened this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The NSH Board of Directors had to review the different scenarios that Aubrey Wanner, Director, Meetings & Education, presented and had to make the hard choice not to cancel but deliver the symposium virtually. We all cannot be together this year in person for those hugs of support or to see our histo friends that we only see once a year, however we can wave via zoom or have virtual social hours and we can adapt because we are histotechs!