Yes, I witnessed the horrific attack on the World Trade Center. I also have witnessed people rising from the ashes of cruel destruction. The same spirit that has made America the world's wealthiest, most technologically advanced and most innovative country has helped it recover from a devastating attack.
Exiting the subway station on my way to work on September 11, I was confronted with a horrific sight. The twin towers of the World Trade Center were on fire. I felt an immediate sense of panic. My husband worked in the World Financial Center, which squatted in the shadows of the towers.
I tried to call him on my cell phone, but the signals were flooded. I rushed to my office hoping to find an available phone and was relieved to find him there. Co-workers were looking out the southern windows, which offered a direct view of the burning towers. Suddenly, someone screamed, "The first tower's down." Could this really be happening? Could the twin towers I used to see from the top of a hill near my childhood home on Long Island really be collapsing?
As I write this account a week later, my life is settling back into something resembling normal. Meanwhile, my husband's company abandoned its building and relocated to a hotel. Scores of downtown Manhattan businesses have been deeply affected, while uncertainty about the future has made companies worldwide cautious, if not paralyzed.
Obviously, the dozens of small clothing shops, novelty shops and newsstands located in the basement of the towers were destroyed. And while the small retail shops and coffee shops near the Chambers Street station-which used to serve the WTC and is closed indefinitely-are still open, they're not nearly as busy as they used to be. In place of the steady flow of businesspeople, there's now only a trickle of onlookers.
A few blocks north of ground zero, in Tribeca, residents are sending e-mail urging everyone they know to frequent local companies that have lost a great deal of business. The businesses near my office are also suffering from shoppers' reluctance to spend money or even visit downtown Manhattan.
The amazing thing is, these entrepreneurs' spirits are far from crushed. Many retailers filled their shop windows with expressions of patriotism. The Grand Street Deli in SoHo, where I frequently grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich, had a particularly large display of flags. Though the headlines on the newspapers in the rack next to the cashier are shocking, the cashier always manages to smile and say, "Thank you." There's something brave about that.
Yes, these entrepreneurs are concerned. They're wondering: Will the economy weaken even more? Will we have to shut down due to a lack of tourists, or because our suppliers shut down? Should we pack up and move out of New York?
But even though terrorists killed thousands of people and destroyed a major symbol of commercial activity, it's clear these business owners are standing tall. They understand risk, and the importance of adaptability. They display consistent grace under pressure. They thrive on innovation and new projects and new beginnings. After all, they, like you, are entrepreneurs.
Next month, we'll show you what entrepreneurs whose businesses were hurt by the September 11 disaster are doing to recover.