Nine days after the 9/11 attacks, Barbara Bush spoke at MAILCOM’s fall convention in Chicago. “I am very pleased that MAILCOM decided to go on with the show and did not stop because of terrorism,” she told a packed ballroom at the Chicago Hilton. Her courage and rousing presentation will never be forgotten. It is with sadness that we mark her passing on April 17 at the age of 92.
Mrs. Bush was scheduled to speak at the 2001 event months before tragedy came to New York City. And in the days after 9/11, the country was in lockdown. Air travel was suspended nationwide after the attack, and when it was resumed no one wanted to get on a plane let alone go to a public place. The fear that the terrorists could strike again kept people home.
And it was in that climate when MAILCOM’s Managing Director Lance Humphries got the phone call from the former First Lady. She wanted to know one thing: would MAILCOM go on with the show? Lance’s response: well, more importantly, do you want to go on with the show.
Her answer: we had to. We had to go back to a normal life, or the terrorists would have won. She would not cancel.
From MAIL Magazine, October 2001:
“Despite the loss to the MAILCOM bottomline, they go to the head of the class when it comes to leadership and inspiration,” wrote the USPS’ Peter Furka to his colleagues back east. ” The letter was forwarded to MAIL Magazine.
For MAILCOM and the MSMA, the twin towers held a special significance for it is there that the first MSMA conference was held. Allen Curtiss, an organizer of the first MSMA event and a member of the MAILCOM Board, led the attendees in “God Bless America” before Mrs. Bush spoke.
For those MAILCOM professionals who braved the trip to the show, there was something comforting in being in the company of Mrs. Bush. Here was the mother of the President and the wife of a former President at MAILCOM fulfilling her commitment, all the while setting n example that life must go on.
Her arrival was like nothing before seen at any trade convention. The entire staff and executives of the Chicago Hilton lined the balcony and hallways to catch a glimpse of her arrival. MAILCOM, the executives noted, was the only convention in Chicago that week that did not cancel because of the attacks.
That evening after her presentation, MAILCOM attendees paused from social activities to listen to her son address a historic joint session of Congress. In a strange way, her speech in the afternoon seemed to lay the foundation for his in the evening. And in hearing his words everything seemed, for the moment anyway, to be all right.
MAILCOM’s Board of Directors expresses our sympathies to the Bush family on the passing of this incredible American. We’ll always remember your courage and kindness, Barbara Bush!