Industry News & Trends

Were you at the dealership on September 11, 2001?

I imagine, for the vast majority of us, 9-11-2001 is one of those days and times that you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. Certainly was the case for me…

I remember the “cubicle,” one of those foam/fabric-wall jobs lining each side of the showroom. Dark blue-green, each wall about 5 feet high by 4 feet wide, faux wood-topped desk sitting underneath a metal cabinet, both attached via brackets to the seams in the walls. My 120 square-foot home away from home.

Not too long before, I had come-up with the business plan for our BDC, and officially moved off the “floor” from my Internet Sales Manager role. So every day, I’d come-in with my laptop (it was my personal laptop), plug it into the CAT5 cable running from what used to be the phone jack in the wall, plug-in my little bubble-jet printer that sat in the overhead cabinet (also my own), and go to work: wrangling CRM software, figuring out how to get more leads and streamline our ILM processes and do all the other fun little things that a BDC can do. I must say, reminiscing now, I remember the time fondly: everything new, everything a challenge – so much to figure-out, fix, and learn.

I mentioned that the laptop was my personal property. And that my internet hook-up was custom – I was the only one on the floor with an actual Windows-based PC with internet. I can remember a few PC’s running – what was that, Window’s 95??? The old horizontal-base stuff – no towers. They weren’t much more than full-color green screens, connected directly via phone line to the OEM’s. And everyone had a green-screen terminal to log-in to their DMS functions, running on the main-frame.

When the news hit, as really the only one with the internet, I was a popular guy. There’s a few faces I can remember, but more so is the recollected feeling of people looking over my shoulder – I can almost still feel the people breathing behind me. I know I was talking to people – but I was staring at my screen. I have a 3rd-person vision of myself and that cube with my face six inches from the screen, with a gaggle of people behind me hanging on every word.

And remember back then – there really wasn’t much streaming video and certainly no RSS feeds – nowhere near the “instant gratification” system we now employ. But I did know how to hit the “refresh” button. The news stations were doing a pretty good job of updating their online content., I believe, was the ticket.

I remember the phones ringing. I remember the “hushed” tones and the confusion. I remember the horror and disbelief giving way to anger when the 2nd plane hit. Was it a bomb at the Pentagon or another plane? Was happened to Flight 93? Are there more planes in the air?

I’ll never forget.

In the ensuing days, I helped to organize a collection for victims of the attack. I volunteered to drive the truck to NYC. I’m really no frequent traveler to the city, but I’ve been there a bunch of times. I remember being struck by the foreign appearance of the skyline – so much so that it was almost disorienting: am I in the right place?? The road signs looked right, but nothing else did.

I also vividly recall the genuine warmth and sincere appreciation of the volunteer workers at the warehouse. I was just a guy who showed-up with a truck full of stuff. They welcomed me like the prodigal son. It was then apparent to me that this “event” had changed things. People had changed. I had changed.

I’ll never forget.

Do you have a dealership 9-11 story?

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • September 12, 2011
John, thanks for the article.

I was working for a smaller autogroup in my hometown, working the Volkswagen / Mazda showroom.

The dealership was dead that day, including the service waiting room. I had just stepped into the lounge to pour myself a cup a coffee when I tuned around and saw it on the news. I stood there for at least 20 minutes by myself before waking out to grab the others.

I found it very surreal, almost like it was not really happening. I was emotionless at the time - wasn't sure what to think. It took some time for it to sink in. I stood there for over an hour watching the news.

It doesn't seem like it was 10 years ago.

I was at a General Motors Managing Retail Operations
class in Greenville NC. One of the memories that stands out for me was when I got back home our
showroom was bombarded with customers asking if they could buy the American car
flags we had on all of our cars. Needless to say we ran out of flags but I was
not about to charge our customers for them.

I was at our VW store at the time and will never forget a customer running out of the service waiting area screaming "you all must drop everything and see this."  It took all of us at least 30 minutes to comprehend what happened.  

From that moment I finally understood the shock my grandparents portrayed every time they told me about the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and later when Kennedy was assassinated.  
I was a senior in high school in 3rd period class.