Frozen in time

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”Go home and be with your families.”

First, Dwight Smith, our neighbor and president and CEO of Sophisticated Systems, made it just a suggestion to his employees Sept. 11.

Tom Longstreth, our sales representative, and I joined those employees, gathered in silence in front of the TV in their conference room.

What at first was an option a short time later turned into an order: Dwight closed his business for the day.

Like a kindergarten teacher making sure students boarded the bus safely home, he was among the last to leave, pausing only to visit our office to advise us to do the same. Countless other Central Ohio business owners were of the same mind.

I wrote and rewrote this column in my head so many times and debated whether I should print it at all. Our October edition was already on its way to the printer when the national tragedy occurred. Now, two months after the terrorists attacked, what more could possibly be said? Yet I couldn’t let it go unmentioned on these pages, as if it never even happened.

What we’d rather erase from our minds brought memories and acts of compassion we should never forget. For every scene of horror, there was a picture of endurance, help, hope:

* The elementary school student who flashed me the peace sign — and a broad smile — as I drove to SBN Sept. 17.

* Churches, normally full only for the Christmas and Easter holidays, which swelled with standing room only.

* Business owners, struggling to make ends meet in the already tremulous economy, who matched donations of their employees or brought blood drives on site so employees could donate.

* Big business, which reached into its deep pockets. The Limited Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc. Foundation contributed $1 million to the fund established by the United Way and the New York Community Trust and gave employees the opportunity to donate as well. (Donate through The Huntington National Bank with account number 04896310285.) Nationwide gave the same amount to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund (800-HELP NOW or www.redcross.org/donate).

* The unique responses of small business. Shadowbox Cabaret changed its scheduled show to one of all comedy and light music. Don ”The Idea Guy” Snyder designed a Statue of Liberty graphic for print on clothing and other items for sale through his Delaware employer, J2 Creations (www.j2creations.com) in a project dubbed ”ChariTees.” A portion of the profits will go to the American Red Cross.

It’s past time to move on, some will tell me — let’s pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off.

But we are, every one of us, changed — for the better, I’d argue — because of one day’s events.

The goodness that came out of humanity as a result of the horror must be constantly repeated. May a part of us always remain frozen in time, Sept. 11, 2001. Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.