Industry still in shadow of 9/11
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Plastics News in 2009, we continue with our weekly countdown of the Top 20 stories covering issues of lasting impact over the past two decades. Plastics News staff members voted on the stories.
The series will end with the No. 1 story in our 20th Anniversary special edition March 16.
No. 19: Sept. 11, 2001
The tragic attack on Sept. 11, 2001, was our modern-day Pearl Harbor, except this time civilians more than 2,800 of them died at the hand of terrorists, who used commercial planes as bombs and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., after some of its passengers and flight crew members tried to retake control of the flight, which the terrorists had directed toward Washington.
Seven years later, Osama bin Laden is still at large. But we have not experienced another attack in the U.S.
The economy was already struggling before Sept. 11. For days afterward, shell-shocked Americans sat glued to their televisions as the crash site smoldered in New York. People were emotional, everything from shock to fear to patriotism. People lined up to donate blood and to volunteer at the crash sites.
The plastics industry was facing some hard times especially the equipment sector. Machinery seemed to start its fall soon after the big, record-setting NPE 2000, which capped a booming period for the industry in the late 1990s.
U.S. shipments of injection molding machines plunged by 40 percent from the go-go days. They have yet to recover.
The recession that followed Sept. 11 exposed the real impact of China and low-wage countries that sapped plastics work and a good bit of vitality from the U.S. industry.
For plastics, the most immediate impact was on travel and industry trade shows and conferences. Show organizers scrambled, but the prevailing mood was, ``The Show Must Go On.''
The International Association of Plastics Distributors' annual convention was scheduled for Sept. 12 in Nashville. IAPD officials scrambled to reschedule the event for late November. Another event, Vinyltec 2001, was scheduled for Sept. 11-12 near New York City. It ended early.
In Washington on Sept. 11, Susan Bergen accompanied her husband, Joe Bergen of Sajar Plastics Inc., to a Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. board meeting at the Ritz Carlton hotel at Pentagon City. She was watching TV coverage of the World Trade Center attack when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a plane outside the window, then watched in horror as it smashed into the Pentagon.
The Plastics USA show went on as scheduled on Oct. 2-4; it was the first major trade show held at Chicago's McCormick Place after the terrorist attacks. Special security was in place.
Some people who skipped the show admitted they were worried about flying.
The K 2001 show also went on as scheduled, in Dusseldorf, Germany. One of our story leads summed it up: ``Terrorists are targeting Americans. Headlines are filled with scares about anthrax, or worse. ... Feel like flying to Germany for a trade show right about now?'' Few Americans did, and several exhibitors left their booths empty.
For those that ventured over, at Dusseldorf's airport, police advised some to remove their American flag lapel pins and ties, just to be safe.
Plastics News told those stories. We also ran a story on Debbie Hayes and her two young sons. Her husband, Bob Hayes, a well-known sales executive for Netstal Machinery Inc., was on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.
Bob was flying on a business trip, out of Logan Airport in Boston. A routine day until the world turned upside down.
Bregar is an Akron-based Plastics News senior reporter.