My column in last week’s issue was written earlier than usual in anticipation of being out of the office at deadline on a long-anticipated family vacation trip to the magnificent Canadian Rockies. The column left behind was intended to be a hard-nosed look at what really constitutes credit union membership in national credit union trade associations. This week’s column was to be devoted to some pretty specific thoughts regarding reactions to CUNA’s controversial Renaissance Commission preliminary recommendations. With strong pro and con feelings being expressed with increasing frequency, I felt this important subject needed to be put in perspective in regard to the perceived future of credit unions. However, after the horrific events in New York City and Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, September 11th, what I thought were important credit union issues that begged for comment, seemed quite insignificant in comparison. In fact, virtually all issues facing credit unions were immediately pushed aside because something far more important shocked and horrified me along with all of America. In one tragic Tuesday morning, credit union concerns would be replaced by deepest empathy and sympathy for thousands of innocent and unsuspecting individuals who would no longer be with us. And for thousands more whose lives would change forever. And for the countless volunteers who did everything within their power to help, costing many of them their lives. And by thoughtful consideration and speculation of what these unspeakable events would mean for a forever changed United States of America. Like most Americans, my perspective regarding what was really important, personally and professionally, changed in a horrible instant as the shocking images of the World Trade Center exploding and crumbling flashed over and over on television screens around the world. Because my wife and I were outside the country, and far away from our children, selfishly I suppose, our first thoughts turned to them. Were they OK? Was one of our son-in-laws in New York, a frequent destination for him as part of his job? No, he was still in Toronto. Turns out all five of our children and their families were safe and sound. Thank God! Still in disbelief that something so horrible could happen in America, our thoughts and prayers immediately went out to all the unfortunate and helpless victims even as the senseless carnage was being reported and shown around-the-clock on TV stations throughout Canada, and in special editions of Canadian newspapers. In some ways the print color photos were more riveting and believable than the TV images which somehow didn’t look real. What we saw before our eyes, over and over again, just couldn’t be. We spent hours pouring over an average of 30 “Special Report” news pages a day while staying glued to the television coverage. Suddenly it occurred to me that the hectic schedule I undertook to get ready for this trip, and the bushel basket of e-mails, voice-mails, mail, faxes, etc. that surely would be waiting for me when I returned to focus on Credit Union Times, seemed unimportant in comparison to what was unfolding as a result of the terrorist attacks. There was little room in our consciousness for anything else. But, probably selfishly again, our thoughts turned abruptly to another family, our many credit union friends. Were those in proximity to the devastation alright? I couldn’t help but make a credit union connection. So many of the poor souls directly involved were part of the credit union family, and it is a family. We began to worry about them. We began to pray for them. Looking back, our vacation in several Canadian National Parks was a wonderful experience, that is up until that fateful Tuesday morning. Like the assassination of President John Kennedy, everyone will forever more remember where they were when they first heard the tragic news. We first heard it from two Australian ladies in our tour group as we were exploring the main street of Banff, Alberta, Canada. We wanted to go home. That proved impossible. We were stranded. For the record, the Canadians were wonderful. Flags immediately went to half mast. National Park entrance fees were waived for “our American friends.” Hotel rates were lowered. Drop-off charges for rental cars (after driving long distances to reach home became the only option) were greatly reduced, or eliminated entirely. Sympathy and concern were expressed throughout the city of Calgary, our home away from home as we struggled desperately to get on an airplane bound for anywhere in the USA. After dozens of booked and cancelled airline reservations, like thousands of others, we finally rented a car and drove home where we hoped to sort things out, as events continued to unfold. We concluded the only thing we could. Somehow, someway, life would have to go on, including life revolving around our credit union family. No, it would never again be business as usual, but we would most definitely continue to do business. We would also not be embarrassed at the tears when singing God Bless America and our national anthem. We would remember to pray for all the victims and the families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues left behind. We would have a renewed respect for volunteerism. We would be resolved to never take this great country of ours for granted again. We would seek new ways to make it even better. Among other things, all of this probably means that our credit union family must try harder to seek more ways to help as many Americans as possible achieve their goals, but especially those who have faced life-altering situations. The overwhelmingly tragic events of that fateful Tuesday, and all that is yet to follow, will be a very real part of the American psyche forever. Among the many lessons it has taught us is that we must get back to work with renewed determination to make this country an even better place to live, work, raise a family, worship, and yes, to enjoy the good life. After all, that’s the American way. So is putting all of this in perspective. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman


Credit Union Times

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