This column appears in the 2011 Summer Edition of "Declarations: Remembering 9/11" by the International Association of Claims Professionals, which has allowed Matt to re-post it as part of the DRI President's Blog
The passage of time dulls one’s senses typically. However, for generations, there is always a defining moment that never goes away. My parents remember hearing about Pearl Harbor like it was yesterday. My family will always remember September 11, 2001 for a variety of reasons. And for DRI, September 11th is one of the 3 defining moments in the organization’s 50 year history (the formal separation from the IADC and Hurricane Katrina being the other 2).
Pearl Harbor ushered in the Greatest Generation and the explosive growth that followed the war. The men and women that returned from the war and entered industry and commerce were transformative individuals. They became leaders in reshaping the world both politically and economically. Theretofore unknown businesses were created, legal issues identified and methods of risk allocation and protection developed. While the war itself was a negative, the post war energy was a positive for all of us as the exciting times unfolded.
From my perspective, the same cannot be said about September 11th and its aftermath. I remember clearly getting a call from my wife that a plane had hit one of the Towers. Then I heard about the second plane. Even sitting in New Hampshire, I felt the pain and terror of what was unfolding. My brother and sister-in-law live and work in Manhattan – where were they that morning? How would I explain this to our daughters. We fortunately quickly learned that our family was safe, but I learned that a college friend had died in the Pentagon attack. It was clear to me that the world had changed, and not for the better. Two weeks later, I boarded a plane to San Francisco to meet with friends for a running race. It seemed trite, but it was a trip I wanted to make, particularly on a plane to show my resolve. Still, I could see the fear and apprehension in everyone’s eyes as I made my way across the country.
As a young DRI Leader, I was also aware that the organization had some serious issues to contend with from a business standpoint. We had lost friends and colleagues, and our members had lost loved ones. It could not be business as usual for us. We decided to cancel 2 fall seminars – Nursing Home Litigation and Construction Litigation – and refund all registration fees or give a credit towards a future program. Still, prepaid expenses with the hotel and marketing were lost. Our 2001 Annual meeting was set for October in Chicago. As you might expect, we saw a large cancelation number as over 200 members chose to stay home. The uncertainty of the post 9/11 world caused law firms, corporations and sponsors to pull back and reduce participation in our seminars, sponsorships and advertising, an economic impact we did not really begin feeling until March 2002.
Apart from the direct revenue impact the terrorist attacks had on DRI, we had to consider what operational changes needed to be implemented. Recognizing that DRI could not simply shut down for an extended period of time if problems occurred in downtown Chicago, DRI contracted for and developed an offsite location where operations could continue in the event of future attacks. Regular disaster recovery drills have been implemented. Supplies such as blankets and water are now stockpiled (for both terrorist situations and brutal Chicago blizzards!). Video surveillance and enhanced building/office security systems were purchased. Key staff members now have enhanced remote access capabilities. And importantly, our reserves have increased. All in all, DRI suffered an approximately $750,000 negative impact following September 11th.
Which brings us to today. DRI members, leaders and staff continue to live everyday with the new normal that has developed over the last 10 years. The changes have not been a result of new prosperity, but because of new realities. While we pray that similar attacks and disasters will not occur again, one need only read the newspaper or watch the news to know that our prayers will not likely be answered. With that in mind DRI continues to do what it always has done – provide cutting edge education and business development opportunities for its members, the defense bar, and corporations and insurers all over the world. With one eye on the past, and one eye on the future, we will, like the Greatest Generation before us, and with our sisters the IACP, ADTA, FDCC, and IADC, continue to seek justice and prosperity for our members, clients, friends, and families.