Mark Anniversary In Terms Of Progress

September 11, 2006
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Finally, a ray of hope on a very dark day.

We cannot, as a region or a country, “celebrate” today’s anniversary of the terrorist acts perpetrated on New York City and Washington, D.C., much the same way previous generations do not celebrate Pearl Harbor Day. Both, to use President Franklin Roosevelt’s words, are days that “will live in infamy.”

Anyone who thinks we as a country have overcome the sorrow and devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, however, has not traveled by air. Has not looked askew at persons with slightly different skin colors when encountered in close quarters. Has not jumped to conclusions when arrests are made for transporting cell phones and the like. Has not chosen sides regarding the philosophies and ideologies of a war in Iraq

Does that mean the terrorists of five years ago (and the ensuing days, weeks, months and years leading up to today) have won the battle?


But as the novelist Stephen King often says, the world has moved on.

Thankfully, West Michigan, which is often insulated from what happens on “the coasts” and in major metropolitan areas, is progressing along with the rest of country, albeit at a seemingly slower pace.

Today’s story on hotel occupancy rates (Page B1) is proof of a recovery.

Smith Travel Research, which collects monthly data for the entire U.S. industry, reported that hotels and motels in KentCounty had an occupancy rate of 65.4 percent in June. Steve Wilson, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that figure was the highest monthly occupancy rating in the last five years.

The number of years is not a coincidence.

Wilson also said the year-to-date occupancy rate stood at 57.3 percent countywide, up from the 2005 figure of 55.6 percent.

A couple of percentage points may seem like a small victory, but that’s how wars are won.

Likewise, the bump in tourism activity throughout West Michigan is a welcome development (Page B3). Tourism officials along the lakeshore and in Grand Rapids point to people “not giving up” vacation days anymore and determining to travel once again, as opposed to staying home.

Again, a small victory; but a victory nonetheless.

The world will never return to “normal” after Sept. 11, 2001. Too much has happened in the interim and too many mindsets have been changed forever. Those who adapt to the changing times, however, will see more and more success in terms of economic recovery.

Like the generations that lived through Pearl Harbor and its aftermath, so, too, will those who experienced Sept. 11 move toward progress over the coming years.

Higher hotel occupancy rates and longer vacation trips may not seem like much, but they, combined with everything else, are steps in the right direction for West Michigan

No one who lived through Sept. 11 will forget that day — nor should they — but maybe in five years, the wounds won’t still be so fresh.

Today is not a day to “celebrate” an anniversary. Instead, West Michigan, take the lessons learned that day to heart and carry on with a renewed sense of purpose. That’s how obstacles are overcome.    

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