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Rising to the occasion

As an industry, we've been preoccupied over the past several months with the subject of loss. The loss of retail customers. The loss of century-old textiles companies. The loss of jobs.

Last week, as terrorists in hijacked jets struck targets in New York and Washington, loss was put into a stark new perspective.

It's commonplace in home textiles circles to talk about how the world has changed. But on Tuesday, Sept. 11, in a fashion previously inconceivable, The World Changed.

Many have a direct connection to the tragedy, having lost family, friends or business associates in the attacks. Many of the industry's New Yorkers were in a position to watch the horrific spectacle at the World Trade Center unfold over the morning. Colleagues in North Carolina, Georgia and California will recall how they had been scheduled to fly into the city on the fateful day. Execs who were attending the European trade shows at the time, or who found themselves grounded at airports across the country, will remember the enormity of absorbing such overwhelming news so far from home.

At Home Textiles Today, our downtown office is far enough north to have escaped the billowing smoke and rubble, but far enough south to have presented a clear view of the grim events taking place at the bottom of the island. As was the case for so many businesses in New York on that day, particularly those downtown, our shop closed and a stunned corps of people began to work their way toward home and their loved ones.

Atrocity drove many from their offices, but what was remarkable were the e-mails and voicemails that awaited everyone's return later in the week. In our office, we received expressions of concern and support from as far away as Asia, and I'm sure that experience was not unique to HTT.

The home textiles industry is often spoken of as a community, and as a community with deep roots in the Northeast, it did its part to pour balm on the wounds of a troubled city. When need beckoned, the industry stepped up to the plate.

The community, like the country, also squared its shoulders and got back to business as soon as possible. No sooner had the ban on air travel been lifted than members of the industry with things to attend to elsewhere began working on flight arrangements. Preview appointments were rescheduled. The phones, although not fully restored to service, began to ring again.

Now we face forward, with a market three-and-a-half weeks ahead of us. This time when we gather as a community, perhaps we will do so with fewer laments about what used to be, more determination to forge a strong infrastructure for the future, and greater goodwill toward one another.

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