Every year since 1998, this time of year has meant the publication of our Who's Fast issue, which identifies the unsung heroes and rising stars whose work defines what it means to be fast.
But this is not just another year. As we were putting the finishing touches on the fourth-annual Who's Fast issue, the world absorbed a devastating act of terrorism. In its immediate aftermath, all of us were forced to think hard and think deeply — about what matters in our lives, about the way we use our time. An understandable first reaction to a magazine that features Who's Fast — or to any business magazine, for that matter — is, Who cares? When we're confronted by a tragedy this immense, matters of work and business, profit and productivity, seem trivial.
But the more we thought about so many good people dying from such evil intent, the more the issues of work and purpose became not trivial, but central. The men and women at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon died because they were at work; the firefighters and rescue workers who died did so as they rushed to do their jobs. Many of those who died in the hijacked airplanes were on their way to a meeting or a conference, or back to their offices. They died because of who they are and what they represent. They were just like the people we celebrate in this issue — ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things. These profiles serve as a reminder of the good work that goes on around us every day, everywhere, by all kinds of amazing people.
Then read the profile of Silke Maier-Witt by Harriet Rubin. Silke Maier-Witt is a former terrorist who went to jail for her crimes. She is the daughter of a Nazi terrorist. And she is now a trauma counselor working amid the tragically terrorized women of Kosovo, seeking to make peace, and seeking to find her own peace. At this painful moment in our history, Harriet's story portrays the awful price of terrorism and the human need for redemption.
Finally, this issue announces the first of what will be our annual Fast 50 celebration. This is our invitation to the Fast Company community to document the work that they do — and why it matters. It's our way of expressing our fundamental belief that individual initiative is unstoppable and that good work is ennobling. It's our way of reaffirming our belief that there is greatness still welling up among us, and that our movement toward a future of hope and progress is unrelenting and irreversible.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.