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September 09, 2016

Has it really been 15 years since the 9/11?
     I was nearing the end of my second year as President and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry on September 11, 2001, when our Board of Directors’ 7:30 a.m. Tuesday meeting at Community Bank of Elmhurst’s Hammersmith Community Room September 11, 2001, was disturbed by a handful of Director cell phone e-mail and text alerts.
    By 9 a.m., a small group of us gathered in the first-floor conference room to watch to the television coverage, now grasping that commercial airliners flying into the World Trade Center’s North and then South towers were no tragic accidents, but deliberate attacks—with the death toll surpassing that of the Japanese Empire’s December 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    For an all-too-brief period, Americans patriotically rallied together with an “All for one, and one for all” attitude, focusing on what commonalities unite US and ignoring trivial differences.
     Still, the economic impact of the terrorist attacks on New York’s Manhattan financial district, at the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and in a rural Pennsylvania field (following a passenger-led revolt against their hijackers) resulted in short-term costs and long-term impacts, especially on the financial markets, insurance providers and the travel industry.
     America’s post-9/11 War in Afghanistan (2001-14), which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military forces joined in 2003, and the United States-led coalition’s War in Iraq (2003-11) extracted high costs in both human lives and financial resources.
     In 2008 alone, U.S. Army Sergeant Joseph M. Vanek, Private 1st Class Shawn C. Edwards and PFC Christopher M. Alcozer, all from Elmhurst, were killed in action in 2008.
     The non-budgeted expense of waging those wars is calculated at $4 trillion—contributing to a record-high $19 trillion in national debt—and is projected to hit $6 trillion when factoring in the medical care of wounded veterans, disability payments to veterans and more.
     The collapse of the $8 trillion residential housing market led to The Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009), as consumer spending (and confidence) shrank, business investment evaporated and the labor market lost eight million-plus jobs.
     Since then, believe it or not, the United States has enjoyed the best economy in the world, even if our 2% to 3% annual growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ranks below the norm.
     All of which is worth remembering this 11th of September.