There's no plastics industry response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. A human response, obviously, but even that is too complex for words. It's an odd blend of sadness, concern, outrage, anger, empathy and pride.
One point is clear: Life won't be quite the same.
For some of us, the changes will be prominent. Those with family, friends and colleagues killed in the suicide attacks, obviously. Also all of us frequent travelers, who have been spoiled by a system that allows us to show up 15 minutes before a flight, check our bags at the curb and speed through a cursory security checkpoint in time for takeoff. That will change, and it should. U.S. airport security is disgraceful, and anyone who has traveled to Europe knows how much better it can be.
The U.S. financial industry was hit hardest, but at this point it's too early to predict either the short- or long-term impact. Some predict a deep global recession. That underestimates the resiliency of the economy and the ability of financial markets to work around this calamity. Provided the attacks were isolated events, and not the first of a series, the economy will recover.
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As when the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City was bombed in 1995, the media is implying that the United States somehow lost its innocence as a result of the attack. It's as if the pundits think Americans had been untouched by tragedy, or immune to violence and terrorism.
It takes a moment to rattle off a string of other shared calamities. Oklahoma City, obviously, but also the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland; the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beruit; the urban riots of 1968. Some analysts rightly compared the incident to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Of course this attack was different, in terms of the scope and location. But please, no more talk of losing innocence. It's a cliche, and it never quite rang true.
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At Plastics News, and probably at most U.S. companies, we got a taste of the global nature of the industry in the hours following the attack. Friends from around the world sent condolences, and we fielded calls from colleagues who wanted to make sure our staffers were all safe. They, too, were watching news reports, shocked and amazed as they saw, in real time, the second plane hit the Word Trade Center. The calls and e-mails were a comfort, even when we had little information to share.
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There was an ugly side to the reaction to the attacks: the immediate rise of conspiracy theories postulating government knowledge or involvement, and the bloodthirsty quest for immediate revenge, particularly when it takes an anti-Arab or anti-foreign tone.
In the darkest hour, Americans must trust in the institutions of Democracy and draw on the precepts of whatever faith they hold near to their hearts.