For most of September 11, Kevin Garrity watched the horror unfold on TV from Garrity Industries, the Madison, Connecticut, business his family started in 1967. Eventually, he realized he could aid in the efforts to find victims in the rubble: Garrity Industries manufactures flashlights.
It was 5 p.m., and most of his employees had left for the day to be with their families. Garrity, 49, and a friend, Jim Sullivan, loaded a truck with 8,000 flashlights with an assist from CFO Arthur G. Aery and Garrity's brother, vice president Paul Garrity. As dusk settled across the eastern seaboard, Garrity and Sullivan sped off with a convoy of local fire trucks. But minutes later, the local firefighters were told they weren't needed at Ground Zero. "What now?" Sullivan asked. "We keep going," said Garrity, figuring that they would get in somehow.
They did. When they passed more fire engines, Sullivan held up a crudely made sign with his cell phone number. The firemen called, and Garrity explained their mission and received permission to join their group. Long before reaching the city limits, Garrity could see an ominous plume of billowing black smoke.
Ground Zero looked like hell, but it didn't scare Garrity away. He came back with more friends and flashlights the next night, and the next. At the end of three days, Garrity's group had passed out 24,000 flashlights to rescuers, at a cost of $34,000 to the company. Garrity Industries sent letters to clients, letting them know their shipments would be delayed and why. Nobody complained.
"My father has always impressed upon us-if we can help, we help. And we're in a business-flashlights-that can help a lot of people," says Garrity, whose company also gave to the Desert Storm cause. "Life is not just taking; it's giving back."
It's estimated that 14,000 businesses were displaced by the terrorism attacks; that includes 9,000 off-site businesses as far away as New Jersey and Connecticut. "There were taxi and limousine services that had only one client: The World Trade Center," says Emanuel Martinez, 45, managing partner of New York City investment firm GreenHills Ventures LLC.
Martinez runs the Downtown Cooperative Project, an organization that offers services, products and support to small and midsized businesses affected by the attacks. He's found more than 40 companies to donate their time, energy and funds to help keep other businesses afloat.
Martinez now works 70-hour weeks between GreenHills Ventures and the DCP. Why is he toiling to tirelessly? He just thinks it's the right thing to do. "Many of our largest companies were born during the Depression," he notes, "and they're still here. We have to help our brothers and sisters unite. And this isn't just for us. It's been said that New York won't be able to truly recover from this for another 10 years, so this affects our children, and if we could shorten this to five, that would really help the city's mind-set."
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.