Watching coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brings back some memories of the aftermath of 9/11, especially the energy of people pulling together to get through and the sense of helplessness I felt being so far away.
We owned our bookstore in 2001, and I couldn't help but think of all of the small businesses like ours in New York City, struggling to get back up and running. I called the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to ask if they knew of a way we could "adopt" a business to help them get hold of some of the things they'd need. The Chamber ran with the idea, included me in some conference calls to get more input, and then set up an Adopt-a-Business program. They even had Business Week call to interview me (click here to read the article, and please note that despite what the article says, I was only a marketing manager, not an actual executive).
I wish I could say that I made a real difference for someone. We adopted a small graphic design firm owned by a single mom with young twins. She had posted before and after pictures of her office on the Adopt-a-Business website. The before picture perfectly reflected my own aesthetic, so I felt an immediate bond with her. The after picture was devastating. Her office was in a building next to the World Trade Center, and it was completely gutted by fire. She lost everything.
I called one of the florists on the Adopt-a-Business website and ordered flowers for her.
We corresponded by phone and email, and I was able to do a few small things for her. I even had a chance to meet her several months later when I was in New York City on business. She was struggling with ambivalence, not sure if she had it in her to rebuild. She thought maybe she'd take her children away from the city and start over somewhere else. Eventually we lost touch.
And so here I am today, thinking about the NYC area dealing with another crazy tragedy barely a decade later. What can I do?