PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Health and beauty care buyers from supermarkets and wholesalers around the country were still stranded here late last week after the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings halted airline travel in the United States.
The buyers, along with representatives from hundreds of health and beauty care suppliers, were entering the final day of the General Merchandise Distributors Council HBC Marketing Conference here when the terrorists struck.
Several buyers and suppliers continued to hold their scheduled meetings throughout the day Tuesday as the events unfolded, while others gathered around to watch the news on televisions that were set up in the concourse areas of Marriott's Desert Springs Resort & Spa.
Shortly after it was learned that the airports would be shut down, many attendees began trying to obtain rental cars to drive back home -- some planning to drive as far as Cincinnati.
On Tuesday night, GMDC canceled the planned entertainment, but more than 100 remaining attendees got together for dinner at the hotel, which included a prayer for the rescue workers.
Many members of the GMDC staff piled into rental vans on Wednesday, preparing for a two-day drive back to Colorado Springs, Colo.
Many were trying to sort out new flight arrangements amid the ever-changing news about airport openings.
"I'm just waiting around, booking multiple flights," said Gary Stanczyk, vice president of sales, Andis Co., Racine, Wis. "I've been checking the Internet and I've been on the computer most of the time, trying to get some work done. I've been calling, but the travel agents know as much as we know."