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"These events have caused me to place much less significance on inconsequential day-to-day occurrences and much more emphasis on my own spirit, and how I treat and interact with my fellow man."
——Ron Phillips, Amazon.com
RETAIL REACTS
A ReRap Special
By Mark Pearson

Last Tuesday morning, just before 6 a.m. PDT, I was on my way to LAX to catch a plane for NARM. It was a plane that would not take off and a conference that would not take place.

I was going via Chicago to see a release party performance by J Records’ new rock band Soil. It was a show they would not play. I had already filed my column, an upbeat look ahead at the planned festivities in Bal Harbour, FL. It was a column that would not run.

The world was about to change. A radio news flash broke in telling of a plane (a Cessna, maybe?) that had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, and I called home to tell my wife to turn on the TV. And, as she watched a second plane, an airliner, take a horrific turn into the second tower, she began to sob. "Are you going to get on a plane?" she asked. Well, I guessed I was. But I guessed wrong.

It was all too surreal, and the profoundly tragic implications were beyond me. They still are.

I started trying in vain to get hold of friends in New York. Were any of them in the air? As it turns out, a lot of them were. Stories would later surface about Best Buy/Musicland’s Dick Odette and Joe Pagano, traveling with Navarre’s Eric Paulson, being diverted to Memphis and getting the last rental car (a pickup truck) to make the long drive back to Minneapolis. Newbury ComicsMike Dreese landed safely in Miami. NARM staffers Pat Daly, Jim Hrobak and Sue L’Ecuyer were re-routed to Charlotte and Baltimore.

But it would be much later in the day before we found out that all of the employees of the two Sam Goody stores and one Borders store in the WTC were evacuated safely before the stores were destroyed. J&R Music, a block away from the WTC, was turned into HQ for search and rescue efforts by the N.Y. Fire Department.

It was a huge day of releases that seemed so important at the time. Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Nickelback, P.O.D., Fabolous and Bob Dylan were all streeting that day. I was not alone in finding it impossible to care about what they might sell for the week.

Retailers immediately changed their focus to more important issues. Amazon.com’s home page became a call for donations to the Red Cross, collecting over $6 million. Best Buy donated $100,000, collected another $500,000 from customers so far and is currently staging blood drives at 2,000 stores.

Harmony House closed their entire chain on Tuesday out of respect, and are now collecting for the RC in conjunction with Detroit radio station WKRK. Trans World, which also closed its stores on Tuesday, is donating to the United Way’s "911 Fund" for the families of the firefighters and victims. They are both matching donations from the company’s employees as well as selling patriotic CDs and posters with a portion of the proceeds going to the charity.

Wherehouse is matching their 6,000 employees’ donations and selling flag stickers with customers’ names on them to wallpaper their stores, with monies going to either the 911 or Sept. 11 funds.

The entire retail industry rightly reassessed its priorities. Amazon’s Ron Phillips speaks for us all when he told me: "These events have caused me to place much less significance on inconsequential day-to-day occurrences and much more emphasis on my own spirit, and how I treat and interact with my fellow man."

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going home to hug my kids.

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