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Businesses craft varied responses to anniversary
By Justin Pope, Associated Press
T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores will be closed until noon this Sept. 11. At 325 Stop & Shop Supermarkets, workers will wear red white and blue, and store managers will use the public address system to call for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.
Microsoft will let employees take a day off. Boca Raton, Fla.-based credit card company Applied Card Systems, with 4,500 employees, will be closed. Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx Corp. will make counselors available and pay workers to volunteer for the day.
Across the country, employers say they recognize that Wednesday, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, won't be business as usual. The challenge for them is striking a balance between honoring the moment and showing that life goes on.
"There will be some folks who will be profoundly affected," said Barbara Reinhold, a psychologist at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., who follows workplace issues. "And others will be cranky, saying, `Let's get on with it.' So a manager has to be careful, pretty strategic about crafting a response."
That can be especially tricky for small businesses that may not have developed a strong company culture.
"All of us at the store have talked about what we should maybe do," said John Henley, manager of The Great Northwest Bookstore in Portland, Ore. "Everyone wants to observe it somehow, but it's not like Christmas, where everyone knows they are supposed to get a tree or go to church. There's no set ritual yet."
Microsoft, UPS, Staples and the Big Three automakers are among the companies pulling their TV advertising Wednesday. Others say they plan to unfurl American flags or encourage employees to wear patriotic pins. Many plan moments of silence at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
"Here in New Mexico we were geographically distant from the events of Sept. 11, but it has served to focus all Americans on things that are important for our company and community," said Glen Wertheim, president of Charter Bank & Insurance in Albuquerque, which planned to pass out stickers saying "Let Freedom Ring" and "Proud to Be An American."
Only 12 percent of 7,466 companies polled nationwide in August reported they would not commemorate Sept. 11 in any way, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Thirty-two percent said they would observe a moment of silence and 25 percent planned to fly the flag at half mast.
In Michigan, Detroit Edison Co. asked employees how they wanted to mark the anniversary, said spokesman Scott L. Simons. The workers settled on several ideas, including a memorial service during which a chime will ring over the company's PA system four times -- once for each of the hijacked planes.
The 15,000 field technicians for Atlanta-based Bell South will drive with their headlights on to honor the victims. Framingham, Mass.-based TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores, will have a nationwide moment of silence before its stores open at noon. The company recently opened a memorial and learning center to honor the seven employees it lost aboard one of the hijacked planes.
In many places, however, workers said they don't need big rituals.
"I think people, probably in their own way, will find a way to honor the fallen people," said Larry Slasinski, 48, who works in payroll services at the Detroit headquarters of General Motors, which plans a moment of silence and to fly flags at half-staff. "Do we need a day off? I don't think so. I think we need to move on."
In downtown Boston, lawyer John Ryan said his 20-person office would do nothing out of the ordinary.
"It'll just be another day at work," he said. "We have a lot of bad things happen in the world, but we can't go back and undo them."
And at the New York Delicatessen in Richmond, Va., owner and native New Yorker Ken Boettcher said he worries any effort to commemorate the anniversary might be misinterpreted.
"I really don't want to commercialize it, and in my opinion, there's already been too much done with that," he said. "I'm not looking to make a dollar off this, and frankly that's how I would view it if someone else did something."
Helen Darling, president of Washington Business Group on Health, an industry group that advises large businesses on mental health issues, said it is important not to go overboard.
"Any of us, sometimes we start talking about it and it makes us sad again," she said. "On the one hand you don't want to be cold-hearted and indifferent, but at the same time not create a lot of problems and pain."
Still, she said, employers should at the very least give employees the time and emotional space they may need to gather their thoughts.
"One of the things we know is people don't shut their brains or hearts
off when they walk into the workplace," she said.