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No Such Thing as "Business as Usual"

By Jon Feld

A decade ago, New York City and the clubs doing business in its environs took a hit that no one could have imagined. In fact, the 9/11 Commission’s final report termed the Bush administration’s approach to the attack and its subsequent response a “failure of imagination.” And it was true for the country as a whole. Who could have dreamt it would happen? Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, some 70 years in the past, had we experienced an attack of such magnitude on U.S. soil. 

The Plus One Corporate office on 9/11/2001

 A few months after the events of 9/11, I had the good fortune to interview several owners and operators of New York City clubs. The wounds, and the anger, were still very fresh.  Many lost friends and coworkers. The pain communicated to me by these survivors was palpable as they freely and openly shared their experiences. But—and I feel this reflects on the industry and what it represents as a whole—not a single person reflected on their personal difficulties. There was, of course, shock, indignation, and even rage. Yet the prevailing focus of the interviewees was on caring for those still here; helping members, family, and friends pick up the pieces and move on.

We recently revisited several of the New York operators we spoke with for the article “Defining Moment,” published in CBI in September 2002. As a group, they discussed the ways in which their operations have changed since 9/11—not with any sense of remorse or loss, but rather, of purpose.

In the resulting article, which appears in the September 2011 issue of CBI, you’ll read about the way that Greta Wagner, first vice president, general manager at Chelsea Piers, and the facility commemorate those lost. But Wagner’s focus is clearly on the future. “If anything, I’ve come to realize that we are much greater and stronger than anyone could ever imagine,” she asserts. “Our membership has remained consistent, but generally more youthful, as the neighborhood has thrived and more families have moved into the community. I don’t think anyone dwells on 9/11. We always remember and we’re more observant, but also more aware not to sweat the small stuff.”

Mike Motta, founder and chairman of Plus One Health Management, Inc., offers this response to the question of 9/11’s long-term impact on his company: “We’ve shown what many of our corporate clients seek through their participation in wellness programs: resiliency. It’s become entwined into the fabric of our organization and has defined us in many positive ways. As a result of 9/11, Plus One has become a more focused, thankful, and dedicated company. We realize that life is fragile and that things can totally change in an instant.”

It can be easy to get mired in the after-effects of any tragedy—and no one can be blamed if the pieces are too difficult to pick up. But, as a nation and as an industry, 9/11 served to galvanize us. At first, the events of the day created a strong, patriotic pull. As time passed and new ground was broken at Ground Zero, we felt a sense of renewal. There may never again be a “business as usual” feel about what we do, but we know that we can heal, and even grow stronger in the aftermath of a senseless catastrophe like 9/11.

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