EDITORIAL: Remembering 9/11, the challenges, the changes

It’s been a decade. You probably still remember where you were, what you were doing, the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Many Alaskans were awakened by calls just after 5 in the morning, from friends and relatives on the East Coast. As the awful reality dawned that the first plane wasn’t an accident. I was starting my morning in Texas, at the Amarillo Globe-News newspaper, thinking about a day of working with local car dealers to better market their products, and the coming weekend’s hunt for mourning doves in the Texas Panhandle. It was pretty carefree business, compared to the agonizing hours watching the towers collapse, and the devastation that followed. And the original estimates, that afternoon, that as many as 20,000 people might have died there. Then the guilty relief that only 3,000 died. Only. It sometimes seems as if there have been few carefree days since. Few events, good or evil, have touched and changed every American’s life as that September morning. Changed the way we look at the world and ourselves. Changed everything from airport security to the cost of raw materials to the way we look at strangers. Changed our belief that everyone around the world wished us well and wished to be us. Changed the lives of a generation of young men and women who have now served their country in harm’s way for their entire adult lives. My nephew, just a 19-year-old sailor on 9/11, has now spent six tours in combat zones using email and Facebook to keep up with his wife and two young daughters while he’s deployed. Thousands of his peers, other sons and daughters, have been less lucky, returning injured or not at all. With all the reflections this week will bring, on the decade since that awful September morning, business is part of the equation. It’s hard to remember – what was business like before 9/11? It’d be tempting to say 9/11 laid the groundwork for the financial issues we’re dealing with today. A cynic might suggest that those terrorists did irreparable damage to our country’s core – the free enterprise system that ultimately makes our freedom possible. But even something as horrific, as comprehensive, as the worst terrorist attack on American soil, is no different from the challenges we face, in business and in our lives, every day. Did 9/11’s economic fallout hurt worse than the financial meltdown that fueled the collapse of home prices? Hurt our economy worse than Katrina? Shake consumer confidence more than vanishing 401Ks? Change marketing more than Twitter or Facebook? It did tear away any confusion about the challenges our country faces. Those challenges remain, and if anything have grown larger, more pressing. Every American generation has been shaped and defined, but not limited, each by its own challenges. We remember the Greatest Generation that won World War II, beginning with another unprovoked attacked 70 years ago. The Depression, Vietnam, all left their mark, their own thread in the fabric of what we are as a county and a people. This past decade has proven that our strength remains in our determination to press forward, to defend what is right and what we know, to adapt and learn. To survive. And it has again shown what Americans do best — to put aside differences and stand together, to pull together against any threat, find impossible solutions to unimaginable problems. Never quit, never lose heart. As for future challenges, we’ll build on our strengths, together, and we’ll persevere. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.   Lee Leschper is regional vice president of Morris Alaska.    


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