Attack's Aftermath: Major mills experience 'business as usual'

Kristine Ellis, Marvin Lazaro, September 18, 2001

New York — Despite the magnitude of the attack on the World Trade Center last week, for the major mills it was pretty much business as usual with inconveniences scattered throughout the four companies.

Approximately 20 Pillowtex employees were travelling at the time of the attack and were stranded as a result of the shutdown by the Federal Aviation Administration of the nation's airports and grounding of all domestic and international flights. Those within the United States elected to rent cars and drive back to South Carolina, while those overseas had their returns home delayed by several days.

Employees based at the company's New York office on 6th Avenue were generally unaffected.

Springs Industries, based in Fort Mill, SC, was also generally unaffected. Several of its employees, most notably Tom O'Connor, executive vp, were also stranded.

"Our first priority was to locate all of our colleagues travelling throughout the country and the world and make sure they were safe," said the long-time industry veteran, who himself was stuck in Los Angeles for much of the week. "Fortunately, none of our people were hurt in this horrible thing."

O'Connor also said he did not anticipate any difficulty in getting product to customers since most of the shipping was conducted by truck. Aside from that, Springs' New York office experienced some problems with its phone service, and overnight mail was also generally unavailable to the whole company.

Chip Fontenot, WestPoint Stevens' president and ceo, said the rest of that fateful week and the beginning of this one were "amazingly smooth" and, like Springs, WestPoint Stevens also had problems with overnight mail delivery.

"But businesses were only operating at 50 percent of steam, anyway," Fontenot said about the pace of business immediately after the attack. "This week, though, will be critical, not only to us but everyone out there."

Several travelling WestPoint Stevens employees were stranded in Chicago, and in one instance, a continuation of a trip into Pakistan was cancelled as a result of the now-heightened political tension between the United States and that area of the world.

Rounding out the pack is Dan River, which, according to its president, Dick Williams, experienced practically no problems at all within its New York office. Some employees, he said, were stuck in the southeastern part of the United States and were forced to drive back to New York.

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