I've heard it said many times that there are certain events in life you'll never forget, such as your wedding or the birth of a child. Unfortunately, this also holds true for tragedies like the events that unfolded in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. For me, that day will remain suspended in time, as I'm sure it will for all Americans. I spent September 11 out of the country on a business trip, somewhat disconnected from my family, friends, and country.
It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and I was sitting in a conference room with several editors of U.S. publications at a Schneider Electric contactor assembly plant in France. The plant manager had just begun his presentation when his cell phone rang. After a short discussion with his secretary in French, he addressed the group in a somber tone. “I have some bad news to share with you from back home. Several aircraft in the U.S. have been hijacked, and a small plane has hit The World Trade Center in New York.”
This couldn't be true, I thought. It was preposterous to think that multiple planes had been hijacked and that a plane had hit the Twin Towers. It was difficult to keep my mind on the tour, but before I knew it we had finished and the host had additional information: Four commercial jets had been hijacked. Two had crashed into the WTC and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth was still missing. Once back at the hotel, I was relieved to find a CNN station on T.V. I stayed up all night with my eyes glued to the screen, mesmerized by the horrific images. Then morning came. The day had ended, but the tragedy had not.
One week later, I returned to my family, my job, and the country from which I'd felt so detached during the past week. Once at work, I learned how the tragedy had specifically affected the electrical industry. More than 200 IBEW Local 3 members were in the two towers at the time of the attack — at press time 16 are still missing. One New York distributor lost a delivery driver. Many contractors and electricians working at the WTC and Pentagon narrowly escaped death. And several engineering and construction firms housed in the 110-story twin towers were destroyed — and these are just a few examples.
As the recovery effort began, I witnessed a miraculous thing: the electrical industry uniting with the nation to restore life, hope, and liberty. Manufacturers and industry associations donated millions of dollars to relief efforts, set up memorial funds for victims, matched employee contributions, filled warehouses with electrical and construction supplies, and sent people, product, and equipment to aid in the recovery. Although I'm sure the events of that infamous day will stay ingrained in our memories forever, I feel proud to be a member of such a great industry and country.