What Did 9/11 Mean for Retail?
This is not a column I want to write. I hope I get it right. My apologies if I don’t.
While it’s natural just a couple of days away from the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to reflect back on that day and those that followed, it also is emotionally and physically uncomfortable trying to find the right words sitting just 22 miles away from the site of the World Trade Center.
I’m having trouble getting past the thought that on Sunday, I may walk into a local deli and see one of my daughter’s friends working behind the counter. She lost her father on that day — her birthday. Still I know that if I see her, she’ll greet me with a smile and welcome my best birthday wishes without a hint of sorrow. I’ve never told her, but she’s one of my heroes.
Thinking back to the days before Sept. 11, 2001, I remember we were still in a recession that began in March and many at a trade show I was attending were less than positive about the prospects for their companies and the retailing business as a whole. The new President wasn’t very popular at the time.
I recall the morning of Sept. 11 packing to leave for the Palm Springs airport and calling to tell my wife I was trying to catch an earlier flight home to New Jersey. She asked me how I was able to get through on the phone. Had I seen the television? Turning on the set, I saw images my mind still can’t accept. I remember my daughter taking the phone from her mother and pleading with me not to fly home. I remember crying.
Several numbing days followed in a hotel room waiting for a flight home. With shame, I now recall the nervousness I felt when boarding the plane because several bearded men, included one wearing traditional Arabic dress, had gotten on board ahead of me. I had to remind myself then that this was America and members of my own family had been labeled terrorists in another country because of their Catholicism. There were no problems on that flight or any I’ve taken since.
It was a full year before RetailWire ran its first article on terrorism and retail. The piece focused on threats to the food supply. I recall being a bit confused (in my naivety) that so few seemed to think the industry should do more to protect the supply chain. The argument against was it would cost too much and neither companies nor consumers would want to pay for the added security — unless something went wrong.
On the fifth year anniversary of 9/11, a RetailWire piece looked at terrorists targeting soft targets, such as retail locations, for possible attacks. The poll with the story found that 44 percent believed merchants were more prepared for an attack than five years earlier; 42 percent said preparation levels were the same as in 2001 and six percent said they were less ready.
It’s been said by numerous politicians and commentators that Sept. 11 changed everything. Maybe it has, I’m not sure. I’ll leave it to you to find your own answers.
- The Grocery War Against Terrorism – RetailWire
- Trains Were Not The Only Target In Madrid – RetailWire
- Are American Businesses More Prepared Today for a Terrorist Attack Than They Were on September 11, 2001? – RetailWire
Discussion Question: How did the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 2001 affect the retailing business in the days and years that followed?