The Day After

Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner offers his thoughts on Tuesday's horrifying events.

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By David Gardner
September 12, 2001

Everyone has someone they know involved, or someone someone else knows. Worse still� someone they love. We'll all always remember where we were when we first heard (though it wasn't one moment, there wasn't just one thing). And many of us will show more tolerance to The Cell Phone from now on, and perhaps for those who carry them, too.

That morning, Tom and I were supposed to fly from Washington, D.C. National Airport at 11:30 a.m. to arrive at the New York Stock Exchange, where we would be up on the platform at 4:00 p.m. for the ringing of the closing bell. Of all days. It was an AARP event, sponsored by the international bank (and NYSE-listed company) ABN AMRO. As I was still watching TV at 2:00 a.m. early Wednesday morning, "ABN AMRO" crawled across the bottom of my screen as one of those companies on the list of World Trade Center businesses. "Who knows what floor," I thought -- the sort of numb concern one felt by this point, melting away into continued random thoughts: If the planes had hit the buildings any lower, more people would have died.

When you stay up as late as I did (and usually do), you get to read posts on our discussion boards straight from New Zealand, hot off the press as it were, simple and beautiful postings like this one. And those remind you of how we're all in this together and that the "good guys" outnumber the "bad guys" by hundreds of nations (even, arguably, all nations).

I read hundreds of our discussion board posts on Tuesday -- your posts. If you're like me, you want to get right in there and talk to others and see how everyone's feeling and get more info. You want to hear great stories never told, small things that wouldn't merit a TV camera, like my fellow Fool CCSand who wrote of driving home from work Tuesday afternoon when another driver up ahead opened up his sunroof, wide open, and held out a full-size American flag flying it proudly as he drove, others catching up to him to honk and give the thumbs-up. I thank our online community for such a great show, and even for some occasional tolerance for the prototypical poor guy who makes the mistake of asking, "So which stocks do you think will open down or up?"

Having now seen the television images dozens of times, I'm still moved. But I'm moved more by words. Whether it is this classic Canadian statement of support (which dates back three decades, but reads like it was written today), or in our own online neighborhood fellow Fool JPBailey's open letter to Osama bin Laden, I find myself continually moved by the power of language when it is used in the right way, o'erhanging a world stage whose players may now suddenly cooperate for justice, and (let us hope) cooperate long past the time that justice is so needed.

"Are you going into the office today?" my wife asked on Wednesday morning. We're just a few miles away from the Pentagon.

"Nah, don't think so."

"Well, I'm taking the children to an animal farm," she said. "See you later."

She looked at me in my pj's sitting in front of the television, channel-surfing for the latest. The Latest. The Latest has been my ongoing state of mind for 24 hours, and yet as I looked back at her then, I could indeed imagine what sort of picture I presented to her sympathetic but impatient eyes.

"No, I'm not going anywhere today," I concluded.

I heard many say on Tuesday, "The world will be forever changed." Others reported, "No more curbside check-in at the airports." No more this. No more that. I certainly hope not. But this Wednesday morning I hear even more saying, "Let's show them the spirit of America. Business as usual. If you stop doing, acting, creating, you've done just what the terrorists would like."

When I drove into work later, the parking lot at Fool HQ was -- is -- full.

-- David Gardner, September 12, 2001


To offer sympathy and support to those who have suffered in this catastrophe, join our Condolences discussion board.

For information about how you can help in the aftermath of this week's tragedy, see our list of resources. The Motley Fool, still, is investors writing for investors.