Our vulnerability is great, but our strength is greater

By Published on .

We're a pretty tough lot, it turns out. The rap on us was we were soft and pampered and self-indulgent. And maybe we are when there's no reason not to be.

But we discovered we also have the resolve to do whatever it takes to beat down terrorism. In realizing we had the fortitude to keep going, to live our lives, we found out some things about ourselves that might have surprised us. We've learned what's really important to us-like love and family and just doing our jobs (and sometimes doing another job)-and we don't seem to have a lot of time for what's not important.

Living our lives, we soon figured out, is what's most important. We go to movies, we watch the Super Bowl (and rate the ads), we entertain our friends, we go to work. And even if the press and the politicians carped that we'd soon lose interest in bringing the terrorists to justice, we found we had the resolve for the long haul.

We're even getting rid of the recession faster than anyone thought possible. It seems the recovery might be stronger, too. I don't think it's what bin Laden had in mind for us.

Nobody says we weren't profoundly saddened by the events of 9/11. I was in our New York office when it happened, and I didn't want to go anywhere for the first few weeks. So I just holed up in my apartment. People were pretty scared. But then we, all of us, decided we weren't going to give in to our sadness and our fear. Air travelers actually ganged up on a would-be hijacker (that's never happened anywhere before).

In the process we learned who we really are. One of our Crain Communications reporters, Karissa Wang, lost her dad when the planes hit the Twin Towers. Karissa is determined not to let the terrorists win. She wrote, in her old newspaper in New England, "As I witness this war against terrorism on our shores, I am comforted in knowing we are already defeating the enemy by doing exactly what they don't want us to do. With all the hugs people are freely giving now, and the ease of expressing `I love you,' we are showing these hateful terrorists a reality they will never know. The love we give to others is something they can never take away from us. Even through death, love is the only thing we leave behind."

Six months after 9/11, people are still willing to let their guard down, to take a chance at showing how they feel. Maybe it's because we all went through this unimaginable catastrophe and we have a deep common bond.

One thing is for sure: Life is too short to clutter it with sham and pretense. This applies to companies as well as people. In the aftermath of 9/11, we're simply not going to tolerate the shenanigans of an Enron or Global Crossing. The companies that will get ahead are those that know who they are and present themselves in an unambiguous and straightforward manner.

We've absorbed some terrific blows in the past couple of years. For a while there we felt as if we knew all the answers-business was booming, the stock market made us look like geniuses, hubris reigned.

Not anymore. The legacy of 9/11 is that we found we're all a lot more vulnerable than we thought we were, but we also found we can handle whatever challenges lie ahead.

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