Directly Speaking - Reflections on 9/11

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
October 10, 2016

I’m writing this month’s column a few days in advance of the 15th anniversary of the attack on September 11, 2001. First it’s hard to believe that it has been 15 years already. I heard the other day that this year’s high school freshmen class weren’t born when that happened! And it is a coincidence that we are just a week away from the 2016 ICHP Annual Meeting and the attack occurred two days before the Annual Meeting in 2001.

In fact, in 2001, I was headed to an Illinois Board of Pharmacy meeting in downtown Chicago when the attacks began to unfold. By the time I arrived at the Thompson Center, both towers had been hit and the Pentagon was about to be. Somehow, the staff at IDFPR found a television and brought it to the Board meeting room. We watched the first tower fall and then the second. At that point, someone entered the room and said that downtown Chicago was being evacuated and we needed to leave the building. The Metra ride out to Elgin took more than 3 hours that afternoon because trains had extra cars to get more people out of the city. There were still hundreds if not thousands of planes in the air and the thought was the Sears Tower could be the next target.

As I look back on that day and the weeks and months that followed, I remember the concern many people had regarding our country’s safety. But more importantly, I remember how the country united to help the victims and the first responders. There seemed to be a sense of service that resonated across the country. Yes, there was a strong sense of patriotism but there was a stronger feeling of “We’re all in this together” at the same time.

As I mentioned earlier, the attack occurred two days before the 2001 ICHP Annual Meeting and air travel was completely shut down across the U.S. for nearly a week. In fact, on the last day of the meeting, as we packed the staff cars to return to Rockford, one of the first airliners to return to the air, flew over Drury Lane creating an eerie feeling for me and several others.

During that Annual Meeting, members networked continuously with the most common discussion topic being emergency preparedness. What can we do to be ready? What kinds of supplies will we need for the next disaster? How can those who aren’t in the affected areas help those who are to treat any victims? Surprisingly, during the three days of programming, only one speaker had to completely cancel due to travel issues and one other speaker made their presentation remotely thanks to a conference speaker phone and an assistant turning their slides. But during the session that was cancelled, attendees took the opportunity to brainstorm on what could be our next steps to prepare for future disasters, natural or man-made. While it was a somber meeting, it was also a very enthusiastic meeting.

I’m now finishing this article after we have completed the 2016 ICHP Annual Meeting, I see some positive signs that I haven’t seen much since the 2001 Meeting. At this year’s Annual Meeting, the U.S. was struggling with a bitterly divisive election and flaring racial unrest. But during the meeting, ICHP members were frequently discussing and seeking out community service projects in which to participate and networking opportunities to help one another with every day workplace dilemmas. Most importantly, ICHP installed its first African-American President. Charlene Hope became the 53rd President of ICHP and while she is the first African-American President of ICHP, she not its first female President, Sister Mary Louise Degenhart, ICHP’s third President holds that honor! Congratulations Charlene and good luck!

There was a lot of discussion during the meeting and especially during the Town Hall Meeting during Friday’s lunch about getting involved in community service projects with other pharmacists, technicians, and students. ICHP’s Division of Professional Affairs is working on identifying one philanthropy effort that ICHP can support throughout the year and across the State so that the organization, as a whole can have a greater impact on our own community. If you have a suggestion that you think fits with ICHP and its mission:Advancing Excellence in Pharmacy, send it to me at and I will pass it on.

I guess the good news is that at this year’s Annual Meeting and closely following the commemoration of the 15-year anniversary of September 11th, I feel like - at least within ICHP - there is new interest and energy that we haven’t seen for a while. I definitely see a younger organization with many new rising stars jumping into volunteer opportunities and becoming ICHP leaders. While reflecting on September 11th could be a somber task, in fact, this year, I found it to be uplifting and encouraging. I never want to see a disaster of that scale again in my life, but it is reassuring that even something that horrible could have some positive ripples that came from it.

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