29 Apr Another Story From Another Challenging Time
September 10, 2001 already loomed as a very exciting night. I was producing the legendary Irish Tenor, Ronan Tynan, for a client event at Union Station in Washington DC. In the pre-show meet & greet we were honored to meet George “41” Bush and his wife Barbara. It turns out they were huge fans of Ronan and Mrs. Bush stated they listened to Ronan singing every night before going to bed. On a side note this led to a wonderful friendship between the entire Bush family and Ronan including Ronan singing at President Bush’s funeral last year.
After stunning the audience with his incredible voice, Ronan and I agreed to meet for breakfast the next morning to discuss future opportunities in the corporate entertainment. On the drive down to the meeting I heard the first reports of a plane striking the World Trade Center. Although alarming, as with most everyone else, kept going about our business. I met Ronan at the hotel restaurant where we were quickly consumed by the news on the television. After realizing this was not a normal day I suggested we jump in my car and head to my house in the suburbs. Ronan insisted on going to his room and calling his sister to let her know he was ok. His apartment in New York was very close to the Towers so he knew she would be very worried. While on the call the hotel alarm sounded and when I looked in the hallway everyone was fleeing to the stairs. There was a bomb threat on the hotel they shouted. I told Ronan it was time to go! He grabbed his bag and together we joined the crowd down the stairwell. Ronan’s athleticism was apparent as he flew down the stairs ahead of me.
When we reached the street we jumped in my car and proceeded to sit in traffic for the next 2 hours along with everyone else getting out of downtown. At this point the Pentagon had been struck and the smoke was visible on the horizon. I phoned my wife to tell her I was bringing Ronan Tynan home but first we needed to stop and get some food. Very calmly she said if that is the case can I pick up some milk at the grocery store. Following lunch and the grocery store visit we made it to our home where our children had come home from school. Trying to explain the tragic events of the day and why a renowned Irish Tenor was in our house was a challenge.
Late in the afternoon Ronan insisted on returning to his hotel downtown. The bomb threat had been cleared and he was determined to get back to NYC. Driving him back downtown was the strangest experience. No one was on the streets. I thought maybe we would be stopped at the city line but there was no one. We made it all the way to the hotel where our surreal adventure ended. Ronan made it on the one and only train that made it into New York that next morning and soon became the face of the NYFD, singing and supporting all those heroes. Eventually things returned to “normal” and Ronan and I make sure to talk on the Anniversary of 9/11 every year. Praying and hoping we can say the same sometime soon with this crisis. Stay well and safe everyone.