Last week we invited Company of Friends members and Fast Company’s readers, writers, and friends to use this site as a means to connect with each other, to explore ways of helping each other, and to express their feelings in the wake of a tragedy that has shaken the world.
We’ve been astonished by the outpouring of support and resilience we’ve seen from the global Fast Company community. Company of Friends members are opening their homes to stranded travelers — within a few hours, 43 volunteers in 19 states had offered to house people unable to get back home. They’re organizing blood drives and carpools, developing Web sites to help people track down loved ones and to follow developments of the rescue efforts. They’re offering coaching and counseling services and are collaborating on relief efforts.
Meanwhile, Fast Company readers from Australia to Denmark have been posting messages of support and disbelief — affirming that the world stands as one in opposition to this horror.
William Edwin Swing
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California
On Wednesday night, one day after the terrorist attacks, the Right Reverend William Edwin Swing addressed a congregation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and members of other religions at an interfaith service of national mourning in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Swing, who was featured in Who’s Fast 2000, is the founder of the United Religions Initiative, an international interfaith group inspired by the United Nations.
Citing the date of the tragedy — September 11, 2001 — he called Tuesday’s attacks “the ultimate 911 call” to our humanity, to the United States, and to all religious faiths. The following is an excerpt from his sermon:
“This moment must be the time that we call religious bigotry for what it is. We have to stop cursing each other and start blessing. We have to stop killing and persecuting people in the name of God. We have to object when one religious group announces its spiritual superiority over other religious groups. And we have to come together to find a common vocation for religions to work for the common good.
“What if the horror of the killing fields of Cambodia, the horror of the Balkans, and the horror of the Sudan is kin to the horror in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania? What if there is one human family, and we all are related? What if the people of the United States of America find security not only in tighter strictures but in closer human ties with the people who hate us? What if there is religious oneness in shared values and spiritual aspirations? Not one religion but one yearning to come together to see what gifts that faiths together can give to a world in ashes.
“September 11, 2001 was a 911 call to end the day with a more united humanity, a wiser United States of America, and a more resourceful United Religions.”
Keith H. Hammonds
There’s a scene from the old movie The Poseidon Adventure that I’ve never forgotten. It’s when Ernest Borgnine and Shelly Winters and their little band are struggling up the decks of the overturned liner toward the hull, and they start meeting passengers — first dozens, then hundreds — slowly filing the other way. They look like ghosts, and they are, of course, doomed.
This was how Manhattan seemed yesterday. As I walked down Third Avenue, thousands of people streamed past me. They walked uptown because there was no other way to go and nothing else to do. Some, it was clear, had already journeyed the three miles from the financial district: From their necks dangled masks or, for a few, triage tags. One man, his shirt opened three buttons and tie askew, his eyes empty, was dredged white with ash.
So, these were the ghosts. The specters held cell phones to their ears. Bound by an awkward intimacy, they knotted in front of TV sets in bank windows and around a city truck — the town crier — with its radio at full blast. A couple holding hands abruptly slowed and then pulled into a shop entrance to embrace and weep.
They looked behind them, down Third Avenue, and they witnessed a left-leaning mushroom-mountain of gray smoke blooming into our perfect blue sky. This image was indelible, and it will stay so. It was the wrenching reality check that said, This is not a TV movie.
I walked across town to an interview that, for various reasons, hadn’t been called off. The avenues heading downtown were empty of traffic. Downtown was no longer a possibility. Amid the babble of incidental conversations and overheard remarks, a man asked how to get to the Staten Island ferry. The answer was, “You can’t.” A cop predicted to no one in particular, “This ain’t gonna be the end of it.”
This was a city without a place to go. Yet by 3 PM, when I emerged from my meeting, midtown Manhattan was nearly empty. The trains and subways were running; the ghosts had found cover or comfort or escape. The street vendors had fled, and most shops were locked. Frighteningly, absurdly, a few foreign tourists snapped pictures of each other in front of Rockefeller Center.
This morning, we took our kids to the playground. School was canceled. The kids are downstairs in our suburban house now, giggling. It is another awesomely beautiful day, just like yesterday.
I keep a clipping in my desk drawer. It’s a brilliant New York Times op-ed piece from 1984 by James Reston, who in turn quotes an earlier Times columnist, Anne O’Hare McCormick. This is what McCormick wrote just before she died: “Whatever happens, the earth will continue to renew itself and mankind will find reasons for living in the constants that survive wars, government, revolution and all historic changes. Everywhere, the things that last are more astonishing than the things that pass …”
I love that paragraph — today, perhaps, more than ever. What has happened is sinking in now, and I verge on tears when I look at the front page of the paper or read the online news. I’ll cry the next time I fly from Washington to LaGuardia. It used to be that if you were lucky, the flight would go directly over lower Manhattan. The plane would bank to the right, and it would seem as if you could reach out and graze the antennas at the top of the World Trade Center towers. It was so amazing. It will be amazing and crushing now to look down and see … nothing — and to mourn.
And yet: “Whatever happens …” We mourn, and in our mourning, we rediscover what it is that lasts. We retain our capacity for astonishment. We rebuild. Because basically, that’s all we know to do.
All morning long, the feelings of powerlessness and despair keep growing. Now, as midafternoon approaches, the task before us is to meet the children coming off the bus and somehow, without scaring them, to explain how the world has been shattered.
On any other day, the delight at having both parents waiting for them on a sunny afternoon would lift the children’s spirits and turn the next few hours into a holiday. But they quickly sense our sadness and grow still as we struggle to make sense of the day’s horror. We find ourselves veering between containing our emotion and expressing outrage, perhaps not the most helpful course to guide a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old (the 3-year-old chirps happily, “Don’t cry! Don’t cry!”, mimicking a familiar refrain). But as we grope to understand as a family what has happened, the magnitude of the tragedy suddenly enlarges, yet again, and we whose years should equip us to recognize evil, at least, are carried along on a tide of indignation and sorrow.
“Will there be a war?” Hannah asks, on the verge of tears. Our oldest daughter knows from the books she has read the consequences of the word. We’re qualifying again: Certainly, this is war. But war against whom? We can’t describe an enemy to them, which only adds to their confusion and their fear that someone from someplace distant could hate us this much. “They were crazy,” we tell the children. Again, not much comfort.
No TV, but the radio, we decide, might bring these events into our home in a more measured way. When a correspondent in New York describes the ordeal of the EMTs, driving their vehicles over corpses buried beneath hubcap-deep drifts of ashes, Hannah runs out of the room sobbing. Kate picks up the depth of our sadness then, for the first time, and begins to cry again, real tears this time. She falls asleep in our bed. Later, when I move her to her room, she asks me a sleepy question with a 7-year-old’s profound practicality: “When that many people die, do they bury them one at a time or service them all at once?” The bottom of my heart falls out, how many times today?
I wake up with the same ache I carried to bed. Lying in the darkness an hour before dawn, I hear planes taking off. The airports are still closed, these must be from Hanscom Air Force base — the only noise of jets at that hour, of that I am sure. One, then another five minutes later, then a third.
I send silent entreaties after the receding roar. Protect my children, I ask. But how?
I just wanted to add my voice of sympathy and support from this side of the Atlantic. We’ve had our share of terrorist attacks in Britain and Ireland in recent years but nothing approaching this devastating scale, and we can only guess the shock, anguish, and pain that you’re experiencing now.
I watched the horror unfold with my colleagues at The Guardian newspaper in London yesterday, and I can tell you that media condemnation of the attacks is universal here and in the rest of Europe. Our thoughts are with you and with those who have lost family and friends.
I hope and pray that you’ll all receive the strength you need to help you through the coming days.
This has been, for me and my family, a day of deep sadness, a little relief, and an exhausting sense of despair about where things are headed.
First the relief. We spent much of our morning desperately trying to make contact with a dear friend, a woman who is a Deputy Fire Commissioner for the City of New York. Hoping that she was okay, but with little hope that our phone calls would ever get through, it was with amazement that we actually got her on her cell phone — and learned that she had been in the second tower of the World Trade Center when it collapsed and that she was pulled to safety by some of her colleagues. We were thrilled.
Then the sadness. Early in the afternoon, buoyed by her phone call with our friend, my wife brought our oldest daughter to preschool. There she learned that one of our daughter’s teachers, a wonderful woman, had a daughter, a son-in-law, and a future grandchild (her daughter was pregnant) on the Boston-to-L.A. flight that was hijacked. They were heading to L.A. for a wedding. No one deserves to suffer such a loss, especially not such a gentle soul as this teacher. We were crushed.
What does any of it mean? Only, I fear, that we are in a world in which every science-fiction nightmare that we’ve imagined will come true. What’s next? The question no longer seems to be whether a terrorist will unleash chemical agents into the water supply of a major city, only when. Maybe you can build a shield against intercontinental missiles. No one is safe from the evil in men’s hearts.
Columnist and author
It is so sickening what has happened. I was on 6th Avenue and 10th Street minutes after the first plane imploded into the tower, and it just looked as though the plane was stuck in the side of the building, that it was no worse than a horrible accident. By the time I got out of a meeting downtown one hour later, the magnificent towers were gone, just stolen from sight. I can’t tell you how horrible it is to look up and see nothing; it is worse than seeing the worse “something” you can imagine. About the dead I cannot even speak.
People started lining up in the supermarkets to buy water, fearing that the water supply is vulnerable. The New York press says the city is on full-scale terrorist alert. The only effect I notice from my apartment is the constant arrival of ambulances at St. Vincent’s, which is the major trauma center, one block away. But the sun is so beautiful today, and the white dust pouring in is almost angelic. The psalms say that when God blesses the earth, he covers it with snow. Very eerie. It’s as if everything has become its opposite.
I was wandering through the supermarket today, trying to do something other than listen to the radio, when my cell phone rang. It was one of my oldest and dearest friends Scott calling from the Upper West Side. He had just walked from Wall Street to 102nd Street and is fine other than some tired feet. He was in a conference room at J.P. Morgan Chase HQ in lower Manhattan. He watched, as many people I fear did, as the second plane crashed into the second World Trade Center tower.
I still await word of my former colleagues at the Wall Street Journal, who sit just across the street at the World Financial Center, a puny bridge away from the World Trade Center. I walked through those two buildings every day for a year while I worked downtown. I am hoping my friends are as lucky as Scott, who traveled with four friends north away from downtown. They parted ways at Grand Central, searching for ways home. Scott brought a new intern home with him since she had just arrived in New York two weeks ago and had no way home to New Jersey.
Here in Detroit, malls are closed, Ford and GM are closed down, and the streets are filled — as I am certain they are everywhere in the U.S. — with people on cell phones and listening intently to their radios in their cars. Keep safe, and I hope all your friends in New York and Washington, DC are home and safe.
Anni Layne Rodgers
Senior Web editor
I rarely sleep on red-eye flights from the West Coast, but Monday night’s cross-country trip was especially tedious and unpleasant. Returning home to Boston after a long weekend in California, I landed at Logan International Airport around 6:30 Tuesday morning — roughly the same time armed terrorists were arriving there to hijack American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175, both bound for Los Angeles. While I climbed into bed for a prework nap at home, those same terrorists were walking on to a plane parked right alongside the United 757 I exited just one hour earlier.
I awoke with a start shortly before 10 AM when my husband called. “Don’t leave the house,” he said. “Terrorists are bombing America. They’ve hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It’s not safe outside.”
I didn’t understand, but I agreed to stay put. Then I turned on the computer. CNN.com was already saying that one of the hijacked planes reportedly departed from Logan. I felt the bile rise in my throat and nearly gagged. The tears began as I frantically dialed my parents in Santa Cruz. Busy. Busy. Busy. Ten minutes later, my mother reached me. She hadn’t heard about the Boston connection yet and promised to call my grandmother with news of my safe arrival. After crying a great deal first, of course.
The relief I feel today is mixed with a heavy dose of sadness and disbelief. My heart goes out to those innocent travelers who lost their lives in this act of cowardice. I will never forget them, or the day I escaped the sky just in time.
Coordinator of the London CoF group
On behalf of the Company of Friends London, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to you, the members of our sister groups. We are appalled, and we dearly hope that you and those close to you are safe.
A significant number of members of Company of Friends London hail from the New York, DC, and the wider U.S. — or travel there often and have friends, colleagues, and relatives there. Most, if not all, of us here have been personally touched by this terrible event. If there is anything we can do, however small, please let us know.
With all of the talk about the economic impact of this tragedy, I hope that CoF members, the business community, private investors, the nation, and the world, can minimize any long-term effect. I, for one, do not want to give those responsible the satisfaction of causing a recession — and I have heard more than one “expert” stating this possibility as being very real.
Every day we are faced with opportunities, choices, and decisions. In times like these, our true priorities come to surface. I hope that we can all maintain a focus on those priorities. I challenge all of you to make a difference each and every day. Seize your opportunities to do something to make this world a better place. Nothing dramatic; it is the little things that count. 39,000 members can make a difference. Like all of us, I am angry, and I am saddened. I can only hope that from this reprehensible act of violence, something good can result.
I was outside when we saw the explosion at the Pentagon. Something I’ll remember, even after 18 years of emergency management experience. It’s spooky seeing the F18s fly around the city.
Volunteer coordinator of the New York group
I’m attaching a note written by a fellow CoF group coordinator, and I thought I would pass it along to the whole group. Eric Butterworth, in his book Spiritual Economics, talks a great deal about how it is our attitude to what is happening, not what is happening, that makes the difference.
For quite some time, we have wondered, When is the economy going to change, and when will it get better? We ask daily when the Street is going to come back. We have forgotten that we are the Street. We are the ones who can create the positive space that allows changes to occur.
Now, more then ever, it is time for us to create that positive space. This is in no way to suggest that we need to candy-coat what has happened. It is a tragic and devastating event that costs untold lives and financial loss. But never before has the need for fast thinkers been greater.
This is our challenge. It’s easy to be a fast company when things are great and the market seems to only be going up. The real test of fast companies, fast people, and fast thinkers is to be able to stay fast in the face of a tragedy like this.
As the largest CoF group in the country and clearly the one most affected, the New York group has to face the challenge and take the responsibility. There are many members of the New York group who are senior management for major companies — How can we help you change the recession thinking that’s been taking over corporate America and that threatens us even more so right now? What resources do you need, and how can the Company of Friends help? We also have many free agents in our group. What are your needs, and how can we help?
As a group, we need to rise to the challenges of this tragedy and be available to help those in need. And those in the group who need help or know of others who need help, please let us know.
My prayers and thoughts are with those who suffered loss yesterday. I also pray that we can remain fast in the face of such loss and show those who are responsible for this attack that we are resolved, more then ever, to show the true spirit of America.
A New York reader
All day charred memos, documents, and letters have been falling in my yard — a horrible hellish ticker-tape trail. The house is coated in dust, and we felt each impact — the planes hitting, the buildings falling — two miles and a river away. My daughter actually saw the second plane slam into the World Trade Center and the subsequent explosion from her science classroom. What an image to carry for life.
As near as I can tell, my company’s New York team is okay. Like many of the international carriers, our primary global switching center is four blocks from the World Trade Center. It was evacuated this morning, and we are now tracking down the last of the team members to confirm their well-being.
Our DC folks are all near Dulles Airport in the data center, and they are fine. We are principally concerned now with keeping the international telephony routes up for anyone trying to call into or out of the U.S. — a major feat since we cannot get into the center to perform physical maintenance, and if they cut power to lower Manhattan for more than a few hours, the battery backup will be used up forcing interconnects and switches to go offline.
There is only one major international facility north of 14th street. The world’s largest concentration of international voice-provider facilities are all within a 12-block radius of the WTC, so I expect it will get very hard to place an international call over the next three to five days.
First, my heart, my sympathy, and my condolences go out to all those directly affected in New York and DC. I have watched in disbelief as this piece of world history unfolds before my eyes.
Second, this has been an interesting day as I watch our great nation brought to an almost standstill. “A day that will live in infamy” has been overshadowed. For the first time since 1812, our nation’s mainland has been the target of a military-style attack, the death toll of which will probably dwarf the death toll of the Pearl Harbor attack. There are no planes in our skies; there is fear in the hearts of Americans on Main Street; there is no clear enemy from a political or military standpoint.
As I see it, this is an attempt to rock the world financial markets and bring the great business machine of the world to a halt. This has been a highly coordinated, synchronized act of war (regardless of what the media or our political leaders may call it). I don’t care to argue the religious implications of what the cause of this attack was. Maybe it was religious, maybe it was a 5,000-year-old territory conflict, maybe it was a protest. It was definitely insanity, an act which erased the lives of possibly thousands of innocent, American civilians and possibly hundreds of military lives in DC.
We need to remember those lost, those who were innocently going about their lives before they were introduced to a hell unimaginable.
I am not a religious man, but we need to pray, in what ever way we choose, for the families and friends of those lost that they may find peace and solace in their time of suffering.
We need to remember our history. Our great country has been attacked before. We bonded, rose to a common cause, and overcame adversity as a people. Our great nation has been through this before, even though this was an attack on our mainland, our civilian population, and on of our proudest symbols of prosperity, freedom, and opportunity for all.
This is a time in which Americans show our mettle, our strength, and our determination. This is a time when our resolve, our character, and our perseverance shines. This is a time in which we must restore our way of life as quickly and efficiently as humanly possible.
Terrorism is designed to create terror, to instill fear in a population, and to halt a nation. In some ways, it is psychological warfare. Our common enemy is now fear. If we allow fear to begin to dominate our way of life, our way of doing business, our great nation, then the terrorists’ objectives have been accomplished. We must rebuild, restore, and revive. We must continue to live free in our nation of opportunity. We must dig deep and remember the principles on which our great nation was founded — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We are Americans. We must persevere.
We are pretty much stunned. Cannot say much else. I was thinking about whether or not to call off a planning meeting we had scheduled for the leadership group for tomorrow evening, probably will call it off but was thinking about — how do we react as people who want to do something?
We have a state of emergency in DC and are not supposed to go out at this point. But there is a call for blood donors — volunteers for the blood banks cannot get into town from the suburbs — so I was thinking of trying to go help out. I probably cannot give blood due to the international travel I’ve done in the past few years and from shots I took in preparation. I am trying to figure out if there is any way to be of service and not part of the confusion …
My younger brother was supposed to fly out of Logan today bound for the West Coast — luckily he had booked a noon flight, so the airport was already closed. Jewish tradition is to say “God is the judge” when you hear of someone’s passing — all I can figure here is, God is the judge. No other way to make any sense of this.
It is hard to stay inside when I want to do something. Go up to the National Cathedral to see if there is a prayer vigil? We have a state of emergency and are supposed to be off the streets. I believe that this community is a lot bigger and more family than other networking groups. Here in DC, as in New York, there must be members whose lives and ways of thinking are changed — our jobs, our attitudes … Hard to know what to do — don’t want to go about business as usual, glad we are all taking a break, but how to go on knowing that others are in acute crisis? What is important by contrast?
Vancouver, British Columbia
“The Mantra of Unification”
The sons of men are one and I am one with them.
I seek to love, not hate,
I seek to serve and not exact do service,
I seek to heal not hurt.
Let pain bring due reward of light and love.
Let the soul control the outer form,
and life and all events,
and bring to Light the Love that underlies
the happening of the time.
Let vision come and insight.
Let the future stand revealed.
Let inner union demonstrate and outer cleavages be gone.
Let Love prevail.
Let all men love.
How to Help
Company of Friends members around the country have started to offer local assistance, guidance, and housing to travelers stranded at airports and in unfamiliar cities during the air travel hiatus.
If you’d like to be added to this directory as a supporter, email firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Emergency Relief Donations
Bob Separ from CharityWave.com
For those of you who don’t know me, I work at CharityWave.com — a free charity-support service. I know all folks in this city (and cities across America) are trying to decide how they can help and be of service in this difficult time. In trying to lend a hand, our team has dedicated the home page of our Web site to the U.S. emergency relief efforts, and we are offering three ways for individuals to help:
1. We ask you to support the relief efforts under way in New York; Washington, DC; and Pittsburgh. Donations can be as little as $5 and can be made at http://www.charitywave.com through our partner, the United Way International. Individuals are able to donate “in memory of” or “in honor of” a loved one or someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty (NYPD, FDNY, Medical Personnel, etc.). As an example, I gave two donations, one in memory of the FDNY firefighters and one in honor of my brother, Mike Separ, who is in the NYPD and spent all of last night digging through the rubble in search of survivors.
2. We ask you to forward this letter to those you know who may be interested in providing monetary help.
3. We ask your employer to put a link to CharityWave.com from their home page or intranet site. A link on the intranet site offers employees the opportunity to give while the link on the home page will help us spread the word. If you are interested in pursuing this, which might be the most powerful way to help, please give me a ring, and we can discuss the easiest way to do this.
Everyone here at CharityWave sincerely thanks you for any help you can provide, and if anyone can think of other ways we might be of service to these cities, please let us know.
Bob Separ, marketing manager, CharityWave.com
Serge le Scourarnec of Montclair, New Jersey
It’s time for action.
I just talked an hour ago to David Polinchock, who is the coordinator of the New York group. We agreed we should coordinate our efforts across the three groups of New York, Montclair, and Morristown to help all Company of Friends members, friends, and families in need of help and support.
We intend to have a meeting with people of all three groups before the end of the week — probably Friday evening or Saturday morning.
We will assess needs and see how we can help people with food, shelter, clothing, and temporary space for their business needs.
I set up a page at yahoogroups for cofmontclair on the same model as cofcoordinators. We could use it as a central communication tool. You can call me at 973-744-4745 between noon and 3 PM.
Vann Schaffner of Albuquerque, New Mexico