The 9-11 hero way
How to survive your own economic attack
Fall football season and the World Series may be upon us right now, but you and I have just remembered and appreciated what happened to our country 10 short years ago. The anniversary of 9-11 is now a huge part of America’s story. During the last month, most of us have read, watched or heard those accounts of heroism and determination that got our nation through those tough days. So many lessons can be learned from 911 – lessons that directly apply to your business today.
About 3,000 people were killed that day. Why? What was their crime? They were at work. And, as ghastly as that number is, it could have been much worse, as some 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center complex. Unlike deaths in a plane crash, which are almost instantaneous, these souls had hours to contemplate their pending, but certain deaths.
For some, that wait and the type of death were so hideous, that they chose, instead, to jump. Only a relative few were spared that long, painful wait, and most of those were the anti-Americans piloting the airplanes. Seems unfair.
But the real story of 9-11 is in the heroism and the resilience of its people and survivors. Of the 3,000 lost, 343 of those were firefighters, 37 were NY Transit Authority police, as well as some public and civilian safety workers – almost 400 people. In other words, more than 10 percent of the deaths that day were heroes who went into those structures to help lead others to safety.
There are accounts of firemen, on their way into the buildings, stopping briefly and having a priest administer to them the Last Rites. And then? Into the buildings, up dozens of flights of stairs, dragging hose and other equipment up, hoping against hope, to rescue others and help them down to safety.
For some reason, our country has put much of this out of its memory, apart from this anniversary. And yet, it is one of those building blocks that makes us the country and the people we are. Some may dismiss the idea of American exceptionalism and rugged individualism, but the terms fit, especially in our own industry.
Sept. 11 means something to every citizen of this country, indeed, to the free world. But let’s get personal here. What does it mean to us, and to our families, towns and businesses? There is an old saying: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Ten years removed from that nightmare, and a few years into the economic firestorm we find ourselves in right now, it’s fair to ask if the sun is about to rise.
We have only to look at some of the accounts of 911 to see where we are. One of the most stirring comes from the passengers aboard United Flight 93. You’ll recall that those Americans had gotten word of what was happening to their country, and learned how hijackers had crashed other planes into buildings. The passengers could not ignore the reality of their circumstances: not if they wanted to change their almost-certain destiny. They devised a plan, told their families that they loved them, and set off to change history, uttering those very fateful, very American, words: “Let’s roll!”
They overwhelmed the hijackers, broke into the cockpit, and struggled until the plane crashed into a field – saving countless others in a distant city. Those passengers not only changed history, but in doing so, they foiled an attack, and simultaneously reminded the world of what America is.
While the passengers of Flight 93 were changing history in the air, hundreds of other Americans were changing history on the ground. Ordinary people were exhibiting extraordinary acts of heroism and compassion, from assisting and comforting others in need, to running back into a burning Pentagon building and rescuing the burned and wounded.
Just as their forbears had done centuries and decades before, fighting injustice and oppression against our own country, then carrying that same fight overseas to Europe and the Pacific, Americans have continued that tradition. Our people always have been making their own, ultimate sacrifices, often laying down their own lives for their brothers and sisters. Another famous saying reminds us that there is no greater love than that.
Going forwardNow, let’s fast-forward to today, and apply these lessons from our history. We are a people who have always overcome. So, as you consider the plight of your own business or our industry, even the life of your community, put it into perspective. As bad as things are, they are not too bad. They are not so bad that you’d gladly change places with that of someone on the 98th floor of the WTC North Tower, wondering whether to face the flames, jump or just hope for the mercy of a collapsing building. No. You have other choices.
The fact is that our choices are vastly different. We’re just getting started. It’s dark, but it is nearing dawn. From here, I can see Little Orphan Annie about to go onstage and begin singing, because we are just about there. “Tomorrow” could get here in just a couple of months, rather than a few more years.
As for us, it’s time to gather our own hoses and equipment, resolve to carry it all up the stairs of our companies where it’ll do the most good, rescue the most people and families, and save our businesses and our country. After all, we are contractors: exceptional and rugged individuals. Most of all, we are Americans, and we remember our heritage. Let’s roll!
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.