SPOKANE, Wash. and TULSA, Okla. – The Washington and Oklahoma credit unions leagues will be holding their 2002 annual conventions on Sept. 11 – one year to the day after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. "It's definitely been a challenge to have our meeting fall on this day," admitted Skott Pope, vice president of education and development for the Washington Credit Union League. The league conventions will bring credit union officials together on a day when much of the nation will be focused on the horrific events of last Sept. 11, when terrorists hijacked passenger jetliners and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. More than 3,000 people died in the attacks. The Washington league's convention officially opens on Sept. 11 after a golf tournament and pre-convention reception one day earlier. The Oklahoma league kicks off its convention on Sept. 11 with a golf tournament and social events, with formal opening ceremonies set for the following day. Both conventions close on Friday the 13th. Shannon Harmon, director of training and education with the Oklahoma Credit Union League, said attendance by both credit union officials and exhibitors at the Southern Hills Marriott in Tulsa was at expected levels. Attendance there was expected to be about 600 to 650 people. "I've not heard any resistance (to being here on Sept. 11)," she said. "Nothing." Pope said registrations were exceeding expectations for the Washington convention, which will be held in the Spokane Center. An estimated 760 people are expected to attend. Both Harmon and Pope said their conventions had been scheduled well before the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and that it would have been impossible to change their plans. "Mostly people have just been sympathetic to the fact that our convention is starting (on Sept. 11)," Pope said. "I think people understood that the date was planned well in advance." Harmon said she had no trouble booking speakers for the convention. Among those scheduled to speak is John M. Tippets, president and chief executive officer of American Airlines Federal Credit Union In Texas, who will discuss the effects of Sept. 11 on his members and his credit union. Also slated to address the conference is JoAnn Johnson, a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) board member. Keynote speaker is Larry Helms, described as an expert in personal development programs, who will discuss "Tough Times Don't Last, Tough People Do." Harmon said the biggest issue she faced with the convention was logistical, such as making sure hotel emergency evacuation plans were in place and that paperwork about attendees was available both on and off site in the event of an emergency. Even though Harmon said she wasn't expecting any problems, she warned that people still needed to be alert and not be lulled into a false sense of security. "A long time ago we felt safe in Oklahoma and then our building (the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City) was bombed," she said, referring to the April 19, 1995 blast that killed 168 people. "We've kind of regathered and regrouped and that fake feeling of safety is there again. I think we need to keep on our toes. I think we have the illusion that it's still OK out there. In essence, we all need to be paying more attention." Pope said the one of the biggest problems he faced was finding the right speaker who would deliver the right message to the conference. He said some people were reluctant to address the convention on Sept. 11. He also debated whether it would be appropriate to have Lisa Beemer, widow of Sept. 11 hijacking victim Todd Beemer, speak to the conference. Todd Beemer was aboard the airliner that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. His last words, "Let's roll," became a rallying cry after the terrorist attacks. Pope eventually opted for W. Mitchell, a speaker who delivers a message of hope. Mitchell, who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, was involved in a fiery motorcycle accident and later an airplane crash. "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do," Mitchell tells his audiences. "Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left." Pope said Mitchell's message was what the league was hoping to find. "We wanted a message that conveys an amount of patriotism with some hope," Pope explained. "We wanted a message that not only offered respect for that day (Sept. 11) but gave a level of hope, a desire for unity throughout the world. It's rather global in nature rather than just local." Both leagues were expected to observe a moment of silence for those killed in the terrorist attacks. In addition, members of the Spokane Firefighters Credit Union were slated to carry in flags at the opening of the ceremonies. A presentation, called "5,000 Heroes," was also to be shown during the opening program. That presentation can also be viewed in the Internet at www.5000heroes.com. Pope noted that the convention was giving credit union leaders a chance to gather together on a day when America will be remembering the events of last year. "From talking to some people, they're kind of glad there's a group of people that will be getting together," he said. "It's a good way to pay respects to people who were killed." -

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