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In Remembrance: Entrepreneurs on the 9/11 Anniversary

On the 12th anniversary of that tragic day, some of the Inc. 500's best and brightest reflect on how things have changed since.

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Today marks the 12-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. For many people throughout the country, the memories of that tragic day are still ever present. Here at the Inc. office in 7 World Trade Center, a bird's eye view of the 9/11 Memorial--which features the two WTC tower footprints--and the gleam of the Freedom Tower next door are constant reminders of what we lost that day--and, more importantly, what we have built since.

In the November 2001 issue of Inc., the editors wrote a letter to readers that said “the challenges we face are certainly enormous, but resilience is the hallmark of our business sector, our economy, and our nation.”

Here, in honor of the day, we asked some of these resilient entrepreneurs to recall their memories of that fateful day, how it affected business, and how they moved forward.

A new American pride

"I think there is renewed American pride...When something devastating happens to a community, there is a period where that community rallies around itself and supports itself through that hard time. September 11 did that. That idea of American pride starts to have a positive impact on American businesses in no uncertain terms. [The attacks] made the country turn inward since that time. Part of that turning inward is focusing on family. [My company] is a company that is focused on nourishing children. It's family first and you just have to appreciate those moments and focus on what matters.” --Neil Grimmer, CEO Plum Organics

Faith and seeing it through

"Right before 9/11, our company had just emerged from a significant restructuring due to the tech bubble burst. The timing of the attacks could have potentially choked-off our recovery and put an end to our business. All of these emotions were running through my mind-- both as an American and as a business owner. I was turning more and more to my faith in God to carry us through. The post-9/11 world initially had a very negative impact on our ability to grow our business. The uncertainty that came from the attacks resulted in a highly cautious and slow moving economic landscape.  As the years passed, the increased focus on cyber security, and other areas of corporate data security and technology fueled our customer base of IT companies to expand their sales by using our services.  We are prospering and tracking record growth at levels never seen prior to September 11, 2001," --David Balzen, CEO SalesStaff 

New priorities

“We have developed safety measures which include exit strategies and contingency plans to make sure the employees are taken care of in the event of an emergency. Whether it’s a cyber threat, an actual attack, or even a robbery, safety is a priority now more than ever. In this day and age, we have to be aware of our surroundings. I think it’s all about caring for others around you,”--Patrick Mish, CEO of M-Edge

Beyond imagination

“I was living in Costa Rica at the time and my co-workers ran up to me and asked if I had seen what had happened. I came back a couple weeks later. I flew into Dallas and was at the Dallas Fort Worth airport and you could just feel the tenseness in the air and the concern. America had changed. It was not the same country I had left a month earlier. That was by far the most dramatic change that I had ever seen the country go through,” --Joe Atkin, CEO Goal Zero  

Pressing forward

“As a New Yorker born and bred, it was devastating. Watching the horror will never leave my memory. It was numbing. I started my business in February of 2001 and pretty much got our first customer in May. With the economic downturn [that followed years after the attacks], tons of people were out of jobs and many people were starting their own businesses. They needed a tool like ours more than ever that was easy and cost effective. It wasn't a bad time to start a business that does what we do. Post 9/11, we've managed to continue to grow.” --Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse  

Never forgetting

 “I vividly recall September 11, 2001 as I was an Army Officer assigned to the National Capital Region (NCR) during that time. I was actually on my way to the Tampa airport on the morning of 9/11 returning from burying my mother in Florida when I heard the first plane struck the north tower of the WTC… I was with my wife and three young children, but I also was responsible for my entire Army staff in DC. When the second and third planes struck, I recognized it was an act of war and was overcome with a feeling of helplessness because I was separated from my Army team. Suddenly, burying my mother no longer seemed to be the thoughts that were consuming me. As a Service Disabled Veteran with more than 31 years of service, I stand amongst those who will never forget,” --Paul Trapp, CEO Federalconference.com 

IMAGE: ms. coffey/Flickr
Last updated: Sep 11, 2013

ABIGAIL TRACY is a staff reporter for Inc. magazine. Previously, she worked for Seattle Metropolitan magazine and Chicago magazine.
@abigailtracy




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