Happy St. Patrick's Day! Do you remember where you were five years ago today? I'm not asking because that was the day the U.S. invaded Iraq, though that is a pretty darn good reason to ask. I'm only asking because I remember vividly where I was--at the CTIA's Wireless 2003 trade show in New Orleans--and it was a day filled with happy and poignant moments.
I remember that morning specifically being the first day in a long time that I felt the telecommunications industry was beginning to emerge from what many people were calling, even then, its nuclear winter. Wireless carriers were beginning to invest healthily in their 3G infrastructures. The show was overflowing with news of new phones, emerging data applications and, for the first time in at least a couple of years, a number of start-up firms trying to grab attention.
Later that day, my brother called me from Austin, Tex., and told me that he and his growing family probably would be moving back home to Chicago before the year was done. I hadn't lived in the same town with my only brother since we were both in high school, so I was looking forward to hanging around with him again. But I was mostly happy for my parents, who would be able to see their grandchildren more often.
Later that night was a typical St. Patrick's Day celebration on Bourbon Street, with crowds of revelers falling in and out of bars, and as you can imagine, this Irishman took full advantage. That night, it seemed like everyone from the show, everyone I knew in the industry almost, had converged at one place and time. I remember one friend telling me about a new job at one of the biggest telecom vendors, and another telling me about a new industry magazine he was going to work for.
Everything was looking up for everyone, it seemed. Though, as night gave way to early morning and a group of us looked for one last bar, I also remember stumbling through the doors of some place and seeing a TV glowing in the corner with footage of explosions from Iraq. Some people watching that TV that night said it would all be over in a month. Others said it would last for years. Two friends nearby broke out in heated debate about whether or not we should have invaded. I wondered then if the telecom industry wasn't going to recover, if it was only going to retract more.
Much has changed since then. My parents got to enjoy their grandchildren for a few years, but they are both gone now. Other parents have seen their own children go to war and die, or seen them die in their own homeland as a result of that war. But, time marches on and we continue to work, continue to try to build something that may out-last us. Happy St. Patrick's Day.