You won't see any special editorial section devoted to 9/11 coverage in the pages of The FABRICATOR or its sister magazines. Frankly, everyone is wrapped up in preparing the large issues that coincide with FABTECH®, Nov. 14-17 in Chicago.
Maybe that's a shame. I don't know. For me, memories of that day are more personal and have less to do with any impact on my professional life.
At the time, I was working for Putman Media, a family-owned publisher of magazines serving the process industries, such a chemical and food manufacturing. I learned that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers from a co-worker that had logged onto www.cnn.com. Only minutes later we were all watching the resulting events on the television in the conference room.
Everyone was standing around in shock. People were walking in and out of the room with dazed looks on their faces. Around 11 a.m. or so, I just left, not saying a word to anybody. I knew it wasn't the end of the world, but I also had no idea the scale of the attacks. Were attacks planned for the Chicago area? Did the terrorists plan to hit the tall building in the nearby office park where I worked in Itasca, Ill., which was only minutes from O'Hare International Airport? I decided I wasn't going to learn the answer while being at work; I was going home to be with my family.
I actually got home before my wife, who wouldn't be released from her high school teaching job until later in the afternoon, and turned on the television. She finally arrived with our 3-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter, and we immediately started sharing details of what we had heard. Then we sat in front of the television like so many others that day.
Shock. Fear. Disbelief. Sadness. Anger. It was an emotional roller coaster, not only that day, but for the days to come.
Honestly, I was removed from the tragedy. I didn't know anyone who died. I didn't act heroically in any way. I picked up the phone and made a donation. I was an outsider looking in at the true tragedy playing out for many on the East Coast and their extended families elsewhere in the country.
I later learned a friend lost his best friend on 9/11. His friend worked at the Marriott at the World Trade Center. Most of the people affiliated with the hotel had made it out, but this young man was working until the very last moment when the building came down.
My friend has become a very close friend over the years, and I called him on May 3 after Osama Bin Laden was killed. We didn't really chat about that, however, instead choosing to reflect on his memories of his deceased friend. With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 getting closer, I finally was introduced to someone's personal loss.
Now the media onslaught of 9/11 anniversary coverage is too great to ignore. I've watched a couple of local news specials, but I'm not going to immerse myself into the network and cable news productions. I've got a pretty good memory and don't need a reminder of that day's events.
However, I do yearn for a return of the cooperative spirit that emerged in the days after the 9/11 tragedy. I'm a big-time cynic, but on the evening of 9/11 it was moving to see Congress join together in hands on the U.S. Capitol steps and sing "God Bless America." It was unscripted. It was human. It was real.
Like that "United We Stand" bumper sticker that's now faded and tearing, so is that spirit of cooperation. We now live an age where our political leaders serve the wacko fringes of their respective parties—not the best plan for moving this country forward. Everyone speaks in catch phrases and buzzwords. Words of disagreement are fighting words.
That's not the case with most metal fabricators. They are humble, almost embarrassed by their success. I've had more than one almost apologize for the fact that they didn't have grandiose plans for expansion and tripling annual revenue with an aggressive five-year plan. They enjoy their businesses, and aggressively expanding would take them away from what they enjoyed most—actually being close to the bending, cutting, and joining of metal. Metal fabricators renew my faith in skilled craftsmen and business owners. I enjoy the time I spend with them and undoubtedly learn something from each conversation.
For a couple of weeks after 9/11, at the very least, most people were like that. They seemed to have more concern for their neighbors than they did for themselves. Life wasn't about "seizing an opportunity and maximizing it" or "striking while the iron was hot." It was about taking a moment and realizing what was important.
I think the good metal fabricators know that. The workforce isn't the company's No. 1 resource; they are a family. Business isn't about growing customer orders; it's about solving customers' problems and helping them become more successful. Success isn't defined by dollars; success is achieved when customers repeatedly come back with more work and increasingly challenging jobs because you—the metal fabricator—help them like no one else can.
As I reflect on 9/11, I don't dwell on the tragedy, but on the traits that I think make the U.S. a great nation. I see those traits in the people in the metal fabricating field. That makes this job enjoyable. Thanks.