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Ten Years Later: How 9/11 Changed the Health Club Industry Forever

Search lights positioned at Ground Zero point toward the sky in remembrance of the Twin Towers. (Photo: laverrue)
In November 2001, Club Business International (CBI) reported that an estimated 30 staff and 150 members died in the terrorist attacks on September 11 at ClubCorp, a tennis and athletic club which was located on the top floor of One World Trade Center.

In the Novermber 2001 issue of Club Business International, the industry began to make sense of what happened on September 11.

Looking back on what is certainly the darkest day in his company's history, Dave Woodyard, executive vice president, business and sports club division, tells CBI's Jon Feld:

“As far as our company is concerned, many of our employee partners had friends, family, and associates who were victims of the attack, and we continue to sympathize with their loss and miss those who were injured or lost. And, while we have clubs all over the world, 9/11 left us with us a new and enduring level of respect for New York City and New Yorkers.”

Elsewhere on

When Time Stood Still

CBI talks with health club operators in Manhattan.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 changed each and every life in our country forever. Those that owned health clubs in the lower west portion of Manhattan faced a very real physical threat. Health club professionals in other areas of the country had different issues to deal with. As a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives and the people who bravely responded to save them on 9/11, we've compiled old news articles that outline how health clubs were effected by the event, and how we, as an industry, rallied in its wake.

On top of ClubCorp's staff and member, the industry suffered many losses. Leroy Homer, the copilot on the hijacked United Airlines flight 93, whose passengers famously fought back against the terrorists, causing the plane to crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was a loyal member of the Aquatic and Fitness Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, CBI reported. Peter Hanson, vice president of sales for the IHRSA Associate Member company Time-Trade Systems, Inc., was a passenger on United Airlines flight 175, according to CBI, which struck Two World Trade Center. Hanson's wife and daughter were also on the flight.

Days after the attack, CBI Editor Craig Waters struggled to come up with the words to describe the devastation. He wrote:

"I spoke with my stepdaughter who works in Manhattan and lives in Queens, who talked about walking home, over the 59th Street bridge, along with thousands of others, in transfixed, near-total silence... Until the old words are adequately revised, and appropriate news words invented... the silence must suffice."

A CBI article outlining the losses to our industry. (Click picture for larger version.)Health clubs across New York City came to grips with their own devastation and, subsequently, stepped up to offer whatever they could to relief workers. The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, which is just over two miles away from Ground Zero, served as a temporary triage center and morgue, CBI reported.

On September 18, the lede paragraph of the Ashbury Park Press read:

"Comfort stations supplying food, drink and respite to rescue workers sprang up in downtown health clubs, like the New York Sports Club, where dust still covered the Stairmasters and TVs were tuned to CNN."

Then, on September 30, Newsweek Magazine's Jonathon Alter reported:

Newsweek snippet (click image for larger version)."I glimpse a huge flag at the New York Health and Racquet Club on Whitehall Street. Beneath it, a handmade sign: FOOD, SHOWERS, SLEEP, BATHROOM AND MASSAGE. EMERGENCY PERSONNEL WELCOME." 

The Fitness Company, which lost its flagship facility located at 3 World Trade Center as a result of the attacks, would give away a free 15-day membership to anyone who donated $10 or more to selected charities, including the American Red Cross and Firemen's Widow's and Children's Fund, CBI reported.

Others outside of New York City dealt with the crisis in different ways.

Gene LaMott, who was then the persident and CEO of Gold's Gym International, Inc., spent a week after the attacks fielding seemingly endless media inquiries, CBI reported. Five of the terrorists that carried out the attacks belonged to a corporately owned Gold's Gym in Greenbelt, Maryland. One FBI agent who later investigated the attacks belonged to the club, as well.

Michael Chaet, of Club Management and Marketing Services, Inc., and his wife Mary released a book titled "In the Air... You Are 9/11." Both of the Chaet's hold black belts in martial arts. The book was designed to teach passengers how to respond to a terrorist hijacking a plane. All proceeds went to charity, according to CBI.

Even the smallest show of good will was meaningful. Laconia Athletic & Swim Club helped members of the Laconia, New Hampshire community ease their stress by offering free yoga classes. Cherry Hill Health & Racquet Club, Maryland Athletic Club & Wellness Center, RiverPlace Athletic Club and Verra Sports all collected blood donations from their members.

In this month's issue of CBI, Waters recollects on the event he solemnly covered a decade ago:

Yes, it has been 10 years and, yes, the world remains changed. History can flex, and bend, and stretch to untenable lengths, but, once it's been broken, it doesn't snap back.


Let us end, by saying again: Let us not forget September 11.

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