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We, the Entrepreneurs

I write this from Ground Zero--or as close to Ground Zero as regular people can get. As most of you did, I watched TV with morbid fascination, looking at pictures of the destruction of the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings. My sister Robin told me you can't really "get it" until you see it in person. She was right. I stared at what were familiar monoliths and now are yards and yards of rubble, saw mighty steel skeletons barely standing, walked through the dust and debris, and passed by fire hydrants and street signs hanging on by a thread. You really have no idea of the true depth of destruction until you walk these streets.

I did walk these streets filled with shuttered businesses: flower shops, drug stores, bagel shops and so much more. I've never been in a war zone (and never want to be), yet I imagine this is what one looks like. Now I'm sitting in Moran's, an Irish pub, the only open business on its block (they were closed for 10 days after the attacks, suffering mostly "extensive dust damage"). It's lunchtime and business is brisk. People are buzzing loudly as if oblivious to the devastation lying mere feet away.

But that is how it should be. That is how it needs to be now.

Before September 11, our economy was headed south in a hurry. The tragedies just accelerated the plunge. Jobs were being dis-created in record numbers. Politicians seemed more concerned with their political agendas than serving their constituents, who were desperately in need of programs and solutions, not knee-jerk rhetoric.

I recently heard some small-business experts riding the waves of doom and gloom. "It's not going to get better for a long time," they said. With that attitude, this could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So to all you doomsayers out there, I say, "Shut up!"

A decade ago, we emerged from our last recession into the biggest economic boom our nation has experienced. We did that because of you--you entrepreneurs who started businesses, who created jobs (about 85 percent of all jobs in the decade), who bought stuff, who hired people who bought stuff. And the economic revival was born.

The U.S. economy started to boom 10 years ago not from the top down, but from the bottom up. You created the jobs; you bought the technology; you made it all happen. And you will again.

Experts, pundits and government officials need to get out of their cloistered towers and take a good look at you, the people. Entrepreneurs and doom and gloom don't mix; if they did, most businesses wouldn't be started in the first place.

Yes, business is down. Yes, people are scared. And yes, we haven't been in this position for over a decade. But it won't last--it never does.

Despite my nearly 24 years living in California, I am a New Yorker, born and bred. New Yorkers are fighters, and the buzz in this pub is the classic NY noise--it is the sound of hope. This city will be rebuilt. Our spirit, as New Yorkers and as Americans, will survive. Why? Because we are a nation of entrepreneurs. We don't see opportunities; we seize them.

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This article was originally published in the February 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: We, the Entrepreneurs.

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