WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2001)—Representatives of the rubber industry have expressed the same horrified outrage in reaction to the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as spokesmen for other sectors.
Fortunately, however, the anecdotal evidence so far of the tragedy's effect on the industry has been closer to inconvenience than tragedy. That didn't, however, preclude legitimate fear as havoc enveloped Washington and New York.
The actual effect of the terrorist disaster on business for rubber manufacturers and tire dealers is simply impossible to quantify right now. This is according to Donald B. Shea, president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association; Ross Kogel, executive vice president of the Tire Association of North America; and Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the International Tire & Rubber Association.
“All we know is that our way of life has been shaken by a group of cowardly terrorists who staged an attack on innocent citizens,” Mr. Shea said from his Washington office.
Mr. Bozarth, too, said it was “really hard to say” what the catastrophe would mean for the industry. “It's such a shock that you don't know how to react,” he said. “The first effect that comes to mind is the reluctance of people to travel by air. If they do something to tighten up security at airports, that would help. But any businessman who doesn't have to travel, won't be traveling.” Mr. Bozarth also predicted a flight cancellation rate of “60 to 70 percent” from nervous vacationers.
Both Mr. Bozarth and Mr. Kogel learned firsthand about the effect on travel, as the Federal Aviation Administration placed a halt Sept. 11 on commercial air travel until further notice.
“I just drove across North Carolina and Tennessee on the way back to Kentucky,” said Mr. Bozarth, one of those who suffered a canceled flight. “A fellow from Michelin was kind enough to offer me a ride.” They had just returned their rental car, he added, and “there wasn't a car on the lot.”
Mr. Kogel's case was more extreme; he returned reporters' calls from “the hard floor of the Phoenix airport,” in his own words. Mr. Kogel was scheduled to return to the Washington area from a TANA executive meeting in Phoenix when the FAA grounding order came through.
But far worse at first than being stranded were Mr. Kogel's fears for his wife, Katherine, who is 4½ months pregnant with their first child.
“Katherine works near the White House,” he said. “When they evacuated that area, she started to drive toward our home in Arlington, near the Key Bridge Marriott.”
Traffic was bumper-to-bumper as Washington's downtown workers fled the city. Making Katherine's situation even worse, Mr. Kogel said, was that she passed by the area where the State Department is located, just as a false report of a bomb outside the State Department building came through. Eventually, however, she made it safely home.