The hotel were good at finding accommodation and reduced their rates to allow people to stay. We found ourselves in the water park of the resort most mornings discussing the latest theories of the terrorist act, the possibilities of getting home. A few of us arranged a trip to Ocho Rios in order to see the Dunns River Falls only to find them shut ( I managed a few days later to do it on my own and had a wonderful time wearing pink suckered shoes to climb up the slippery falls and wallow in the cool mountain water), and end up at a steamy restaurant on the outskirts of town. I went into Mo Bay (Montego Bay for the uninitiated) and drank and ate at its many bars and restaurants. By the end of that week I had a number of lifelong friends; we’d shared a siege mentality and a period we would never see again.
I joined the committee for organising this meeting three years later in Barbados, and we then moved on to the Bahamas and then the Cayman Islands. We have since been at Trinidad and Back to the hotel in Mo bay.
Some of the Caribbean GIS crew
I looked forward very much to the Cayman Islands conference. I didn’t meet up often with most of the delegates. This year there was a larger than usual contingent from BVI where I was based for two years. And I had not been to Cayman Islands before.
As always in the Caribbean many of the channels were US based and being on the same time zone were coming to the end of their breakfast news sessions. The news out of New York was of a fire in one of the World Trade Towers. I switched from channel to channel and thought I was watching a recording of a plane entering the tower. I was wrong, I was watching live the second plane hitting the tower. The other was already aflame.
The conference was not due to start for another hour and I was transfixed to the television watching as first one then the other tower collapsed. I headed to the conference rooms and saw the crowds watching the screens in the lobby. At the first plenary session we held a moments silence. The sessions went on as planned but no-one’s hearts were in it. The next night was the big party of the conference, and we partied as best we could – we partied very well – but it was more resistance than enjoyment.
And as the conference drew to a close there was an issue. Airspace in the US remained closed and so many of the delegates, Caribbeans included, needed to travel home via the USA. I had already planned to remain at the hotel till the Saturday and was on a British Airways flight via Kingston, but instead of some relaxed solitude I found myself with over half the delegates from the conference still hanging around.