On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, I have taken time, as I’m sure many of us have to reflect on the details of that tragic day 9 years ago.

 I can vividly recall that on the morning of September 11, 2001 I was getting ready to head to the Portland International Airport. The activity of our young children getting ready to leave for school had my wife and I hurriedly trying to get all the loose ends tied up in time for the kids to get on the bus and me to get to the airport. As usual the Today Show was on in the background. All attention was pulled away from our morning routine as we saw the pictures of the first World Trade Center tower on fire caused by a plane crash and then watched in disbelief as a plane hit the second tower. We stood holding each other around the TV as we watched the horrifying pictures coming from “Ground Zero”.

I was scheduled to fly to Northern Nevada that morning in anticipation of a Laughlin Associates 3-day workshop due to begin the next morning. Of course all air traffic was halted. There would be no flight that morning. Also, in light of the unprecedented tragedy, the question was raised by some of whether or not we should hold the event at all. We had over 100 business owners scheduled to attend and many of them were already enjoying some late summer time at Lake Tahoe where the event would be held. I decided that we would proceed with the workshop and quickly called the 6 speakers that were supposed to present. They were from all over the Western United States and all had families to be concerned about. Without exception each one confirmed that they would get in the car and head for Nevada.

The drive from Portland, Oregon to Lake Tahoe takes about 11 hours. I was having issues with my car’s audio system and so had no radio with which to keep track of the details unfolding on the East Coast. Rather, what I saw spoke volumes about the resilience of small business owners. Throughout my long day’s drive I saw people working in their stores, cooking burgers in the restaurants, working on road crews, and driving 18 wheelers. As much as it had seemed on television that the world had stopped, it had, in fact, not.

When I arrived at the resort at Lake Tahoe, I was impressed to find that virtually every person who had registered for the 3-day event had shown up. Despite the ongoing tragedy perpetrated by individuals wanting to shut down America, these 100+ business owners were determined to not let anything keep them from building their companies, taking care of their families, and ensuring that “no terrorist was going to shut them down.”

One of the most humbling moments of my life was standing before that group to open the first session. I can still feel the swelling pride in my chest that I felt for these people, most of whom were strangers to me. Nevertheless, in that moment I felt connected to them in a deep and poignant way. I knew right there that no matter what might come at us in the future, the small business people of America would continue to take steps of faith into the darkness. I knew that despite the challenges the world threw at them, their resilience would not be slackened. This is as true today as it was 9 years ago. We face big challenges and we see that government and huge companies are all looking toward the small businesses to keep the economic ball rolling, without bailouts and without much top down help at all.

As we go into this weekend, let’s make sure that we never forget what makes this country great. It is its people. Let’s never forget what makes our economy work. It is small business. And let us not forget the source of the blessings we each enjoy in this great land.


Aaron S. Young, CEO

Laughlin Associates, Inc.