Members of the Idaho Potato Commission are "very thankful" that their annual fall harvest festival media event planned for the Windows of the World restaurant in the Trade Towers in New York City was not 36 hours earlier.
Jeff Raybould, commission member of St. Anthony, ID, said Friday that to his knowledge the five commission members and President Mel Andersen who were scheduled to go are safe. However, Andersen and member Wayne Allen had not arrived home as of Friday morning. Allen and his wife, Susan, were the only members of the group who had arrived in New York City. They had gone earlier on their own to do some sight-seeing.
"We know that the executive chef we were working with was not in the building," Raybould said. "We are thankful that none of those we were working with were in the building-to our knowledge-or we would have felt very bad."
Raybould says the group was scheduled to arrive in New York on Tuesday for their stay at the Grand Central Station Hyatt Hotel, just blocks from the Trade Towers. "We were going to meet and go over our plans. We were scheduled to be on the `Good Morning, America,' weather segment Wednesday morning."
Raybould says the group's New York City public relations agency was very hard to reach by phone right after the early Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, disaster. But they have since been contacted and have reported that everyone is fine.
"My No. 1 concern right now is for the people back there. This has really hit home because we were scheduled to be there. We're grateful all our people are safe. Our thoughts and prayers are for the family members of those involved," he added.
He said the Commission hasn't even had a chance to talk with one another let alone discuss whether they want to reschedule the event. "Right now, discussing potatoes is the last thing that would be on their minds," he stated. "We'll have to give this time to settle down."
Bob Wilkins is now the commissioner in charge of retail advertising. He was stranded in Salt Lake City. Andersen was scheduled to arrive in NYC Tuesday by train from Washington, DC, where he had gone to a United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association meeting. He never reached the city because the bridges and tunnels were closed.
Raybould says he had gone to NYC with Andersen a few months ago to set up the event but he doesn't remember what floor or even which tower the restaurant is in. "It had a beautiful view of Staten Island and the Statute of Liberty. It was a great place to have a party."