Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2003 / 18 Elul, 5763
Terrorists and idiots: Financial lessons learned
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | There's nothing like being down at Ground Zero, where the once mighty Twin Towers stood, to appreciate the enormity of what happened there. I remember covering events down there right after the attacks, did so again a year after the attacks, and yet again, from a roof-top perch overlooking a vast empty pit this past week, two years after the attacks.
It is a sobering experience. Just looking at the faces this year of children reading off the names of moms and dads killed in those attacks reminds you of the pain that continues from that day. But I'm not here to write about pain or loss. Plenty of my colleagues in the press have already done so, and many far better than I ever could.
No, I'm here to write about a different feeling . . . a good feeling, a proud feeling, and a confident feeling. I'm here to talk about the good news on an anniversary seemingly filled only with bad. I'm here to talk about something the terrorists didn't destroy, and couldn't if they wanted to. I'm here to talk about the triumph of the American spirit, as seen in something as crass and as elegant as American capitalism.
So, for you 19 misfit terrorists, who relished an after-life hook-up with a host of virgins, a host of reasons why you botched it.
You thought by striking the heart of financial America, you'd financially cripple all of America. You didn't. People did stop spending for a few weeks, but they more than made up for it in the many months since.
You thought by hitting so near Wall Street, you'd decimate Main Street. You didn't. The averages fell, but most are back or near where they were then, and in the case of the NASDAQ, comfortably over what it was then.
You thought that by using our planes, people would stop flying on our planes. You were right, for a while. But thanks to help from Uncle Sam and some crafty competitors and special deals, airline traffic is 20 percent higher than it was then, and the industry's coming off one of its best summers ever.
You thought people would stop buying cars, yet more Americans bought more cars in the two years since the attacks than any two-year period in history, not only among people here but people anywhere.
You thought Americans would stop eating out. Yet restaurant sales are up 15 percent year-over-year.
You thought people would stop taking trips, stop buying big-ticket items, stop doing fun things. Yet summer travel bookings were a record, we just sold more refrigerators and air conditioners this year than any other, and amusement park spending was stronger in the summer of 2003 than it was in the summer of 2001.
All this is not to say you didn't inflict harm. You did. But even there, you did it in a way that made us climb, not cower. We are a more focused nation now, and a more determined nation now. We know our strengths, and, yes, we know our weaknesses. But the key is we have the strength to see and debate those weaknesses. We're as proud of those differences as we are our flag. And, oh yeah, unlike you, we don't kill others over those differences. The things you thought would bring us down have only brought us up. You hoped desperately to attack us from within by shocking us throughout, but it is you, not us, who have lost out.
You discovered towers can fall, but not the American spirit.
It's a pity. All this damage, all this carnage, all this scheming . . . on the hunch we would stumble and you'd get a cheap after-life date with virgins.
Now you must be asking . . . what the h-ll happened to that
stumble, and where the h-ll . . . are the virgins?
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