It is just a year since the unimaginable happened. Those of us who saw first-hand the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings last Sept. 11 and the many millions more who watched the incessant replays on TV are still, in many ways, trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
The loss and grief will live with us forever. Its become almost a clich? to say that our lives changed forever that day, but in fact Sept. 11 is the very real edge of before and after for this country.
To remember that day is to feel again its utter unreality. It seemed at some point as if the world was coming to an end–the attacks and rumored attacks just kept piling up.
Two images of that day are forever seared in my memory. The first took place around nine oclock that morning as some of us NU staffers stood on a street corner in Hoboken, across the river from the Trade Center. Suddenly, out of one of the buildings near us rushed a young man who looked at the billowing smoke and started pounding a wrought iron fence with his bare fist, shouting, “My wife works in that building! My wife works in that building!”
The second indelible image is a photo that appeared in one of the newsmagazines shortly after the attacks. It shows bunches of screaming, anguished people squeezed against the narrow windows of the Trade Center on a floor just above one of the floors hit by the plane. The caption of the photo said it was taken just minutes before the tower collapsed. It is an unbearable image of doom.
All of us, Im sure, have our own images of that day that recur periodically and reawaken the grief.
Turning to the business, it is gratifying to report that life insurers acquitted themselves as model corporate citizens after the attacks, responding with humanity and alacrity in paying death claims.
Life insurers have experienced other aftershocks of the tragedy–some subtle, some blatant.
Among the obvious has been the extreme tightness of the catastrophic reinsurance market, something we have dealt with in detail in this publication in the last year.
Among the more subtle after-effects of Sept. 11 has been a craving for guarantees and security and for taking care of matters close to home. Of course, the turbulent stock market has had something to do with the migration toward insurance and annuity products with guarantees. But we cant help but feel that the jolting message of how transient life was for some 3,000 people on that sunny morning has also played a part in this migration to security.
In conclusion, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the unimaginable, let us pledge to always honor those who died that day, whether in the Trade Center towers, at the Pentagon or on one of the planes that were turned into weapons. Any one of us could have been among those who died. And part of every one of us died that day.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 9, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.