In episode 240 of UnCapped, host Chris Sands is in conversation with David Keuhner, founder of One Family Brewing Company.
Keuhner started out in the hotel business, running several Ruth’s Christ Steak Houses. After that he worked for companies that supplied various technologies for the hospitality industry. He talks about his journey starting with One Family, how he was originally supposed to be on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, the brewery’s mission to give back to the community and the celebration of freedom organized on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of September 11.
Keuhner: September 11, 2001, I was supposed to be on the plane that ended up in the Pentagon, but we were a company with no money, we were chasing every dollar we could, trying to grow as fast as we could, and my business partner basically said to me, “You don’t have to spend that money to take that flight to California, do you?” The flight was about $ 600, because I literally came and went in a day. I’m like, “No, I don’t have to.” What I did was take the dreaded three-stop flight over Southwest. And during that time, I live right next to the airport. And I’m going, man… I have to drive to BWI, it’s gonna be an hour and a half, it’s gonna be traffic, it’s gonna be 4 in the morning. Maybe it’s those 12 years of Catholic school where my mom sent me, because it’s like I have an angel sitting on my shoulder, and I canceled my flight and took the flight from the southwest because it cost about $ 200.
Sands: It must have been a hell of a roller coaster of emotions. Thinking about it, thinking about how – superficially, I guess – you were angry, upset, having all kinds of emotions about having to go from that direct flight to what is definitely considered a miserable experience of ‘have two stopovers.
Keuhner: Are you kidding me? You go BWI to Nashville, Nashville to Houston, Houston to LA, and you’re like, “I just need to go to Los Angeles to get to my meeting. I actually had our very first big corporate meeting. And I’m like, “I just have to make it.” We had already logged in to Nashville, we were in the air, and the pilot came in and said the FAA told us to cease all operations – we have to land immediately. I travel a lot and I was sitting there thinking, “This is weird. What is happening?”
At that time, I was 31 – I’m young, I’m on a plane, my wife was pregnant with my son when the plane flew overhead on GW Parkway and hit the Pentagon. I still have the worst habit in the
world, where I say to my wife, “I’m going to California. I’ll be back on Friday. And it’s like, “OK, see you later when you get home!” I do not share flight information.
Sands: So all she knew was a flight intended [for California]. And you couldn’t make a phone call to save your life in that area during that time. I lived in Gaithersburg and the phones just weren’t working.
Keuhner: The plane was not very busy. There were maybe 50 people on the plane. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was reading the sports page, and I had two ladies behind me. If you think about it, there aren’t any phones on planes anymore, but these people have taken the phones.
Sands: Oh that’s right! The seat backs had phones on them!
Keuhner: Swipe your credit card, you can talk on the phone.
Sands: It was only, like, $ 100.
Keuhner: Exactly, and now it no longer exists. So these ladies picked up the phones and said in a very high voice, “We are being bombed. The United States is bombed.
I think my whole family, over 75 years of service, it’s impossible. Who the hell would bomb the United States? There is no way. So we’re going around and around and around and around, and the pilot says we’re either going to Nashville or Memphis or, I think, it was Little Rock. Eventually we got back to Nashville, and at your point, we couldn’t use the phones. I couldn’t call my wife, I couldn’t call my office, I couldn’t call my mom – nobody. I just looked at the cab driver and said, “Take me to a Hilton,” and it was my home for seven days because I couldn’t leave. The planes were grounded, there were no rental cars.
Sands: Especially this area was really restricted. I also remember that this phone system caused a ton of anxiety. I moved to Maryland in 2001, and a series of things happened. My parents had no idea where I lived in relation to things, so they constantly thought I was involved in something wrong. They had no idea how close I was to the Pentagon, and they couldn’t reach me. My dad worked for the Pittsburgh County government, and there were all these bomb reports in Pittsburgh and all these false reports about what was going on in Pittsburgh, and I couldn’t get in touch with my family. the low.
Keuhner: It was a day that obviously many of us will never forget, clearly, but this lack of being able to communicate with our family, our friends, our colleagues, whatever, was something that I will never forget. because I kept saying to myself all the time, “What’s going on?
I literally grabbed my bag and just got off the plane. I haven’t stopped. I did not watch. I just went straight to the taxi line and said, “Get me out of here so I can figure out the rest.” And here I am with a duffel bag, I’ve never been to Nashville before, but you can only imagine, September 11th, nothing is open. The only thing open was a steakhouse at the bottom of the hotel. I’m like, “I like the steak, but I can’t do this for the next seven days. You would just try to find open places. At the end of the night, well after midnight, I was able to send a message to my wife.
Ironically, today, as we sit here and talk, my son raises his hand to take the oath of office in the United States military. He does ROTC and goes to school at the University of Washington. It’s kind of surreal, in a lot of ways. It has allowed us in many ways, as a family, to do a lot, to help and, frankly, to learn a lot about what many of these people have faced since September 11th.