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The WTC Collapses
Elizabeth Smith  

September 11, 2001, began as a perfect day. The morning was beautiful in New York City—warm, clear blue skies without a cloud in sight, a slight breeze. Hundreds of thousands of workers poured into downtown Manhattan by subway, bus, PATH, train, car, and foot, rejoicing in the glorious late summer weather. And thousands of us went to our offices in the World Trade Center Towers. We were beginning a normal Tuesday.

By the nature of our profession, we spend time working with the financial impacts of all kinds of disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, industrial accidents, medical malpractice, automobile accidents, fires, and so forth. The language of our trade— catastrophe coverage, clash covers, limits of liability, excess of loss, adverse development—is a technical jargon that insulates us from the underlying human suffering that is represented. We work with the numbers, simplifying human tragedy to the status of claim frequency and average severity.

We normally do not think of claims in the context of the human element,because they represent remote events, not directly connected to us. That remoteness, the separation between our lives and the “numbers,” ended at 8:47 a.m. on September 11.

Many CAS members worked in the Twin Towers and felt the explosion when the first plane hit the north tower. We then suffered, with the rest of the nation, as this act of terrorism expanded to include the south tower, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 crashing down in southwestern Pennsylvania. As a professional organization, we are very fortunate that so many of us physically escaped. But we have all been touched by this tragedy—some directly, by the loss of loved ones, close friends, and business associates, and others less directly, by the knowledge that thousands were killed in this act of terrorism.

In the aftermath of the tragedy we have witnessed the best in humanity:

  • the heroism of the firefighters and other rescue workers;
  • the mutual support of the tens of thousands of workers—of all nationalities, religions, and ethnic groups—who vacated lower Manhattan;
  • the outpouring of love for the many missing;
  • the selflessness of the volunteers who have worked so long at ground zero;
  • broad support from the community to help in any way possible with families
who had lost members and with others who were suffering from the tragedy. This has been a potent reminder that human nature has the capacity for enormous good as well as evil.

Our lives will be changed by the events of September 11 in many ways. We will never again be so comfortable, either at home or abroad. This will lead to many small adjustments at a personal level, combining to represent major changes across our society—we are already experiencing the effects on the travel industry.

As we begin to rebuild our businesses and our lives, we should not forget the terrible events of September 11. But, hopefully, we will each be able to remember the goodness that was also revealed, and will make personal efforts to increase the joy that does, in fact, still exist in the world. We had an unforgettable reminder that each day could be our last, so let’s make each day as good as we can, for ourselves and for others, as we move ahead.

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