Convention Goes Forth in the Face of Tragedy

September 29, 2001
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RENO, NV — On Sept. 11, 2001, when the “Attack on America” began, members of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association (PHCC) faced “a week of much heartache and difficult decision-making,” reported the association.

The convention was only a day away from beginning, and decisions had to be made about whether to continue the event. A staff member was a passenger on the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon, and her death caused much grief for everyone.

Through it all, PHCC members pulled together — for their country and association.

Ike Casey, PHCC executive vice president, recalled that “It was Sept. 11, 2001, when the PHCC board of directors went into session [in Reno, NV]. The entire board and the executive committee had arrived the day before in preparation for this meeting.

“As the meeting began, we were horrified to hear about the crashes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but we agreed to move ahead with the business at hand. The national staff huddled together, but was ready to do the job they had come to do.”

One person was “visibly shaken,” said Casey. “After the meeting we asked him what was going on.”

The member was PHCC member Lake Coulson, who said his brother-in-law worked in the World Trade Center. To their relief, they heard that he was safe.

“President Mike Kastner called the board meeting to order,” Casey continued, “and we proceeded with the business at hand. About an hour later, staff member Charlie Wallace called me out of the meeting and explained that Norma Khan might have been on one of the planes that went down. I went into the staff office and everyone was visibly shaken. We again huddled together and prayed for Norma in our own individual ways.” Several people mentioned Ms. Khan’s son, Imran.

“We then returned to find that the board had decided to cancel the meeting for the time being and decide later what to do about the convention,” said Casey. “We agreed to proceed with the board meeting the next day and with the convention as best we could, realizing that most attendees, speakers, and exhibitors would not make it.

“There were many losses but we were there; we could not leave and we should make the most of the days ahead.”

Their worst fears were verified. “Norma was confirmed on one of the planes that went down. It was hard to believe,” said Casey. “I had to ask the person who told me three times before I was sure I heard it right. I called the national office and everyone there was also in a state of disbelief.”

Those already in Reno proceeded with the convention. “Everyone was mindful of Norma during the entire event,” said Casey. “She was remembered at every meeting in prayer, as were other victims of the attack. We wore ribbons to remember her, and all of us were wondering what we could do for Norma.”

The board set up a trust fund for Imran Khan and also collected funds at the meeting. Donations also came from the NAPHCC Auxiliary, and Delta Faucet.

“Everyone wanted to do something to remember Norma and those close to her,” said Casey.

Although the convention had an abbreviated format, close to 250 people were able to participate, despite travel restrictions. “We all became closer that week,” said Casey. “We became closer because Norma brought us closer. By her loss we found renewed commitment to each other and to our industry. That is what makes any association great, especially one with a history as rich as PHCC’s.

“No one at the 119th annual convention in Reno will forget our week together.”

Casey continued: “So many of us were touched by these tragedies, but so many of us are more aware of what is important because of the loss. Family members have passed away before in my life, but no one’s passing has had the same effect as this one.

“I miss Norma because I grew to know and respect her. I feel guilty that she was assigned by me to travel to the convention. I appreciate Norma because she has taught me to love those who are closest to me and to appreciate each and every day I am alive.

“I just received a call from my son that my second grandson has come into the world — on the day after my birthday. I cannot wait to see him. I cannot wait to spend time with my daughter, my wife, my mother, my sons, my friends, my coworkers, and anyone else who is close to me. Every time I think about them, I will be thankful for them. I will appreciate all of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. I will be thankful that they are still alive and I have one more day to enjoy them and to enjoy life.

“Thank you, Norma, for the gift you have given me: the gift of life,” Casey concluded. “Through your death, I will live on more aware of the life around me than ever before.”

For a complete listing of PHCC’s new officers, directors, and scholarship recipients, visit The News’ website at www.achrnews.com.

Publication date: 10/01/2001

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