Last week I published a blog post on my excitement about the upcoming CoNEXTions event, which was cancelled later that day because of ongoing civil unrest in Baltimore.  I received the Karpen Steel newsletter today which shares Rachel Smith’s perspective, and I asked for permission to share this letter here…

Baltimore DHI Show, Then and Now

A letter from Karpen Steel president, Rachel S. Smith

Rachel SmithSeptember 11, 2001, the day that changed our world as we know it. We no longer felt secure on our own soil. Our hearts were broken, we were terrorized, and we looked over our shoulders whenever we went any where with a gathering of people. Forty five days later, the door and hardware trade show was held in Baltimore. Karpen Steel was bringing the largest trade show booth we had ever had at a show. I flew into Baltimore with other team members, but some members of our team chose to drive instead. Together in our industry we talked about life safety, about security, about the role that all of our products provide in securing the built environment. A few years later at the 2005 St. Louis DHI Show we heard from FDNY Battalion Chief Richard Picciotto about his rescue efforts and his experiences in the stairwells and at the World Trade Center that day, and there was not a dry eye in the house.

Fast forward to present day April 2015. For many reasons I decided to drive to Baltimore for this year’s CoNEXTions along with Todd Bechle, Customer Service Team Leader. We were bringing one of our smallest trade show booths in the car with us. We drove up on Monday, a day early so we could set up on Tuesday, and then spend time at the aquarium, inner harbor, and other downtown Baltimore venues. We had heard about the protests and riots but felt that we would be safe. As we arrived in downtown Baltimore we saw a dozen police cars less than a block from our hotel. The bell staff suggested we get into the hotel ASAP and not to linger outside. The inner harbor was closed, no shops or restaurants were open, forcing us to stay in the confines of the hotels. We could look out and see police guarding the inner harbor and the next morning I witnessed the National Guard marching into town. By then the show was cancelled, we were getting ready to leave the city. We did not make any connections. For some reason there were times I felt less secure than at the Baltimore show in 2001.

This newsletter was going to be all about any new products, services, codes or other information from the trade show. Instead it is about the basics of Life Safety and Security. If you saw my closing thoughts column in the December 2014 issue of Doors and Hardware you will know that I am passionate about how our industry helps to save lives. From key card security at a hotel room, to limited access at schools, to security doors for businesses, banks, and prisons, and fire doors for medical facilities and so forth. Our work is important, our mission is important and our discussing various options to provide life safety and security in open forums such as trade shows, classes, and blogs (thanks Lori Greene) is important. When I go to a trade show I don’t think of others in my industry as competition, instead I think of them as industry friends. We have a common goal and it is much deeper than making a profit. Carry on with all the good that you do to make people feel safe. Thank you for everything that you do. Contractors and end users may not always be grateful for your work, but I am.

Thank you very much,
Rachel S. Smith

You can contact Rachel at 828-645-4821 or, and sign up for the newsletter at the Karpen Steel website.

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