2:15 a.m. in Paris

I got to the Expo Center today. The stands were being built by contractors who had already arrived in Paris by the time of the attacks. Our exhibit contractors had arrived from Germany and the US and our stand is beginning to look fantastic. It was exciting to see the graphics we had created at the office, actually being applied to the walls of the stand and looking good.

This morning I spent time focusing on things like tuning up the social media posts we have planned to go out during the conference week. You can pre-schedule Tweets and Facebook posts and so on, but if something happens in the meantime that makes them false, you look pretty dumb when they go out.

The people in Paris whose job it is to take care of tourists and visitors while at the same time worried about their own family – these people have been professional and kind to a fault. Last night when all the horror happened, taxi drivers turned off their meters and drove people home for free.

Getting meals and taking care of other basic needs has been odd. The restrooms at the expo center were closed for most of the day today, perhaps because staff stayed home… One of the event organizers warned me: “Go to the loo before you come to the expo center.” In contrast to what the center will look like in three short days, with espresso and pastry flowing out of many exhibit stands (OK: pastry doesn’t “flow”) . . . today the cafes in the expo center were closed.

I said in my earlier blog post that my entries from Paris would be in “classic web log” format, without much attention paid to good writing. This post is obviously no exception – instead of finding a good tagline, I will just say “Bon soirée.”


10:43 a.m. in Paris

Trying to figure out when / how to go to the expo center. Unfortunately I’m staying in a hotel some distance away. The really weird thing is following the Twitter hashtag for the conference to try to get up-to-date info, and seeing the pre-scheduled Twitter posts that marketers (like me!) have queued up ahead of time. “Excited as we prepare for the show!” and that sort of thing.

Sunrise in Paris

This blog post is more like the original version of a “blog” – a “web log,” an unedited, diary-like post instead of a carefully thought-out, search-engine-optimized gem of thought leadership.

Last night in Paris was a fairly ordinary evening for a business traveler. I had arrived in Paris at 8:40 a.m. to coordinate my company’s presence at EWEA, one of the wind industry’s most prominent annual conferences. I had spent the day going from airport to hotel to our company’s Paris office to gather together the things we’d need on our stand, ranging from a demo unit of our data logger to two large boxes of Finnish chocolate to give to attendees. I had dinner at a cheap sandwich shop, thinking I must be the dorkiest person in Paris right now.

Friends, family, and colleagues had urged me: “Have a good time in Paris!” It was a Friday night! But I was tired. And my partner, Nathaniel, had given me a whopper of a lecture about staying safe, with his unique combination of sternness and love. So I went all out: I stopped for an espresso and pastry across the street from the hotel at 6 p.m.

At about 10 p.m., wired to the hilt from the espresso but exhausted from a missed night of sleep, I found a “Yoga to go to sleep” routine on Youtube. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor with one arm extended over my head in a pose that should be called “Awkward Bird” when my phone rang. “Are you all right?” demanded one of my friends back home. “Yes, why?”

I spent the next few hours speaking (chatting, posting, tweeting…) with friends, loved ones, and colleagues. For the second night in a row, I haven’t slept much. My emotions are hard to fathom, ranging from numbness (‘how many people got killed?’) to breaking out in sobs when my colleague Niina texted me from home saying her thoughts were with me. The expressions of simple concern (“are you all right? stay safe!”) touch me. I’m more worried about my family and what they are feeling than I am about anything else. Not being fluent in French is challenging because the local news is more informative than CNN, from the perspective of what’s actually going on here.

There’s nothing I can do for the time being, except wait for other people to make decisions – whether it’s safe to go to the conference center now, whether the conference will in fact be cancelled, and so on. Two days ago I was excited for the conference to start – now I wish I were at home with my family.