Everyone has a story of where they were on 9/11. Many talk about being at work or in school when someone called to say, “turn on the TV.” Some folks were flying that day, while many were on vacation. I personally, was sitting in the Oscar Mayer Theatre in downtown Madison, WI attending the general session of Epic’s UGM.
Before Epic had their campus at Verona, UGM was held downtown at the Monona Terrace. And the big event, Tuesday’s General Session, was held at the Oscar Mayer Theatre, about a 10 minute walk away. It was a perfect morning outside, and we all walked with excitement to watch Judy Faulkner and team tell us about the latest and greatest in Epic’s software development.
The theatre had 2100 seats, and we were jam packed in and getting settled for a full day of entertainment and education. Around 50 minutes into the presentation the giant movie theater screen changed from the presentation we were watching to live TV with an image of the first tower on fire. We thought it was going to be another skit about how Epic can help with emergency room volumes or something like that. But not even 2 minutes later the second plane hit. People jumped up and rushed out of the auditorium onto the streets. Lines formed at every pay phone. The few of us with cell phones had a lot of issues getting through to family. Mine worked pretty well, so I lent mine to anyone who needed it. Everyone just wanted to reach their families.
There was a good couple hours of chaos and confusion. Those who could, immediately departed. Most of us returned to the theater waiting on news updates and what we should do. It was a very emotional couple of hours, for everyone.
Judy came out on stage and announced the meeting would go on as so many of us were stuck there with the airports being closed. It was the right decision. Most people did leave. The rest of the general session was canceled and we went back to our hotel and congregated in the lobby bar to watch the news…for hours. The next several days of UGM were various breakout sessions and client presentations at the Monona Terrace. Epic did an awesome job keeping everyone updated day after day on travel options.
Being from Boston, my group had an extended visit in Madison, until we finally got a truck and drove home. Epic coordinated finding us a truck and called with the request to take a couple of folks from NYC with us. We had 9 people in an 8 passenger van with all our luggage. Lucky for me I had a wedding in Buffalo, NY so I got dropped off after 14 hours. Would have been faster but with so many people we stopped every 2 hours for a stretch break. I felt terrible for the rest of the group, they had another 8 hours to go to Boston but did drop off 2 at the train station in Albany, NY.
I talked to Judy about the event a few years back and she was telling some stories about the behind the curtain discussions she and her team were having that terrible Tuesday morning. Mainly there was a lot of debate over whether to keep showing the news on the giant screen. I can’t imagine the pressure to decide what to do with thousands of people there for their event…they were the host, and they certainly stepped up.
The entire Epic team was accommodating and truly a wonderful host during a time of crisis of the entire nation and world. I’ll forever be grateful personally to Epic. They kept us safe, informed, coordinated, and eventually assured everyone got home.
Anyone else at UGM that year? Or who was at a client site that day? Share your memories and gratitude for those who helped you below.