Reflections

On September 11, I was in France with a group of U.S. business magazine editors learning about Square D/Schneider Electric products and manufacturing. The events of that day were as much a shock to the French as to us.At times like this, people seem to expect writers and editors like me to provide profound words and observations.

By Richard L. Dunn, Editor October 1, 2001

On September 11, I was in France with a group of U.S. business magazine editors learning about Square D/Schneider Electric products and manufacturing. The events of that day were as much a shock to the French as to us.

At times like this, people seem to expect writers and editors like me to provide profound words and observations. I am not up to the task. Instead, here are a few personal reflections from those days of numbness.

  • Our French host interrupting his presentation to relay as best he could the first, unconfirmed reports that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

  • Expressions of sympathy and support from all we met — from corporate managers to production workers.

  • My revulsion at the commentators on CNN or MSNBC (I can’t remember which) who couldn’t even let 24 hr pass after the atrocity before speculating on what would happen to stock prices when the markets reopened.

  • A young Frenchman in a sidewalk cafe catching my ear to say, “Fifty-six years ago, you [Americans] saved France. I want to thank you and tell you that we are behind you and will support whatever you do.”

  • A sign in a French store window that said, “To our U.S. friends… We have at your disposal phone, fax, e-mail to get in touch with family, friends at home. We speak English.”

  • The tears welling in my eyes as the entire multinational congregation at the American Church in Paris sang America, the Beautiful instead of the previously scheduled hymn at the end of their service.

  • The patient and understanding people at American Express who tried so hard to help us arrange flights back to the U.S.

  • The seemingly endless lines at the airports for ticketing, baggage check, security, and boarding, yet no displays of temper, frustration, or impatience.

  • The remembrance that there were undoubtedly plant/facility engineers in the World Trade Center who died trying to save their buildings and the people in them.

  • The thought that all plant engineers should review their security, emergency preparedness, and disaster recovery programs.

    • While our company lost two executives on one of the planes, I was spared the agony of the loss of a family member or friend. But I know that many of our readers were not. From all of us at Plant Engineering, our thoughts and prayers are with you.