I flew to Kuwait City on September 10, 2001, and checked into the Sheraton Kuwait Hotel. Our joint venture, Combat Support Associates, had successfully completed the first of a five-year contract to maintain the Army’s tanks and weapons systems staged at Camp Doha, Kuwait. We employed a couple thousand Indian and Filipino mechanics and technicians, supervised by a few hundred Americans and Brits. The board members, of which I was the chairman, had come to Kuwait to celebrate with our employees.
Before traveling to the worksite on the morning of September 11, I met with the hotel’s catering manager to confirm our plans for a banquet to be held the next evening, September 12. We had reserved the hotel’s grand ballroom for the board of directors to present achievement awards to dozens of well-deserving managers and employees.
The government of Kuwait leased Camp Doha, a former duty-free warehouse complex, to the United States Army for use as a maintenance facility. In less than two years, an American armored division would take the tanks from Camp Doha and storm across the nearby border into Iraq to commence the Second Gulf War.
After paying a courtesy call on Camp Doha’s commander, an Army colonel, the board members toured the numerous maintenance shops. It was mid-afternoon before our meeting commenced. As a result of the late start, the meeting dragged on into the early evening. Sandwiches were brought in, and the board members and supporting staff adjourned to a break area where a television was running in the background. International businessmen relied on CNN while traveling to stay informed about world-wide developments. While we enjoyed our catered meal, we turned the volume up on CNN’s news coverage.
We paid little attention to the the TV until a Breaking News announcement flashed across the screen at 7:00 PM Kuwait time. We watched the replay of an airplane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. It had occurred a few minutes earlier at 8:46 AM New York time. I reminded the other board members that a WWII bomber had crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945, and the world’s tallest building at that time was repaired and never exhibited any long-term ill effects. We agreed we had witnessed a terrible accident and expressed sorrow for those who would have died.
A few moments later, at 7:03 PM Kuwait time, we watched in horror as a second airplane crashed into the second tower. A stillness settled over the room as it became apparent we were not witnessing an accident. We did not reconvene our meeting, We concentrated on following the developing crises as a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, another plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania, and the towers collapsed in New York.
I telephoned the Sheraton Hotel and canceled our celebration banquet.
The next morning, the Kuwait Arab Times, was delivered to my hotel room. I never opened the newspaper, but wrapped it in plastic (which accounts for the photo’s wrinkled appearance). The newspaper is complete, containing all its advertising inserts.