N+I resumes in wake of American tragedy

ATLANTA – Despite significant repercussions resulting from Tuesday’s tragic events in the United States, one of the world’s largest networking shows is continuing here today.

Keynote addresses at the Networld+Interop trade show have either been rescheduled, such as Network Appliance CEO Dan Warmenhoven’s, which had been scheduled for yesterday, or cancelled outright, such as AT&T president David W. Dorman’s. Numerous festivities, such as vendor parties and the traditional Best of Show Awards ceremony, were cancelled as a pall descended over the conference and entire city yesterday.

The expansive show floor was shut down Tuesday at 2 p.m. eastern but has reopened today. The floor had resembled a ghost town long before the closure, however, as all attendees scrambled to contact loved ones, arrange emergency travel plans or extend hotel stays.

One exhibitor summed up the unease that swept the show floor before it was closed, saying that, “you have to be concerned whenever you’ve got this many intelligent people gathered in one place.”

The confusion continued this morning as Interop visitors continued to wonder when Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport will reopen. Cell phone conversations are not about sales deals or meeting arrangements, but more about flight bookings and check-ins with workmates back at the office. The exhibition floor is hardly it’s usual picture of high-energy sales pitches and flashy entertainment, although vendors and customers are attempting to turn their attention from Tuesday’s tragedy, at least for a short time, to subjects such as virtual private networks, wireless protocols and 10 gigabit Ethernet.

There is also a feeling of perseverance and a determination to continue on in the face of yesterday’s events, a feeling that was summed up by Valerie Williamson, brand president of Interop, as she introduced Warmenhoven for his keynote. She referred to the sentiments of U.S. President George W. Bush in his address to the nation Tuesday evening by telling a sparsely filled auditorium that after thinking long and hard about closing the entire show down altogether, Interop officials decided it would be best “to continue on.”

Williamson also announced that a service for the victims of Tuesday’s events would be held at 11:30 a.m. today in the same auditorium that housed the keynote speeches. The service was to be broadcast over the public address system of the Georgia World Congress Centre, home of Networld+Interop.

Network+Interop is online at http://www.key3media.com/interop/atlanta2001/