A printer didn’t need to be south of Canal Street on September 11, 2001 to see his or her life and business thrown into turmoil by the day’s deadly attacks. Hundreds of New York metro area printing personnel attending the Print 01 trade show in Chicago learned this the hard way as they found themselves abruptly cut off from their scheduled flights home.
Among them was Hallie Satz, currently president of HighRoad Press in Moonachie, N.J. At the time, she was president of the Barton Press division of EarthColor, a Parsippany, N.J. print network that is now part of Mittera Group. On the morning of 9/11, Satz and a large contingent of other EarthColor executives and managers were present at Print 01 for a panel discussion featuring Robert Kashan, their CEO.
Satz got the bad news at breakfast when her husband called to say, “A plane has hit the towers.” Initially, she recalls, reality had a hard time taking hold. “Everybody had a different idea. Some people were thinking it was just a fluke, or an accident. Others were saying no, no, no, this was an attack.” Her immediate thoughts were of her children at home in New Jersey, then 11, 10, and 8.
The panel presentation went on as scheduled, “but as Robert (Kashan) was speaking, the second plane crashed,” Satz says. By this point, the scene at the McCormick Place expo center was frantic, with cell phones dead, people dashing to their hotels, and everyone who didn’t live in the vicinity desperate to find a way out of Chicago.
The EarthColor group, 15 strong, found theirs in a pair of Winnebago vehicles that a member of the team managed to rent. Then began an eastward trek that Satz remembers with a mixture of discomfort and wry humor.
One of just two women in the group, she found herself sharing one of the vans with six men. “We had to go slow. They were not new Winnebagos. They were small,” says Satz, who sat cramped on a bench for the 36 hours the trip home would take. The behavior of her equally stressed traveling companions was sometimes less than cordial.
“You’re in this Winnebago with a lot of testosterone, a lot of fighting,” she says. “There was a lot of arguing going back and forth. I think they passed the time by fighting.”
Looking back at the day and its grim events 20 years later, Satz sums it up as “an instant change in life” that has some parallels with the disruption caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. “COVID of course was nothing like that, and yet, I’ll say as a printer, it was the only other time things really changed for all of us in printing,” she says.
Satz adds that one trait of the industry remained constant throughout the chaos of 9/11 and its aftermath. In printing, she observes, “everyone has always helped each other out. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in any tragedy or natural disaster where printers weren’t willing to help each other.”
Patrick Henry is a journalist and an educator who has covered the graphic communications industry since 1984. The author of many hundreds of articles on business trends and technological developments in graphic communications, he has been published in most of the leading trade media in the field. He also has taught graphic communications as an adjunct lecturer for New York University and New York City College of Technology. The holder of numerous awards for industry service and education, Henry most recently was a Senior Editor with NAPCO Media’s Printing & Packaging Group. He currently is the managing director of Liberty or Death Communications, a content consultancy.