If it's early September when you're reading this, then I am in Chicago. The International Manufacturing Technology Show—IMTS—is held during the first half of September in every even-numbered year. In recent years, the show has run for eight consecutive days starting with first Wednesday after Labor Day. This year, that means the last day of the show coincides with a date that all of us know too well.
At the moment I write these words, I have yet to hear of any specific plans for commemorating this date at the show. My guess is that most exhibitors, as well as the show's planners, are still uncertain as to what gesture or tribute would fit the day's solemnity. The anniversary is too big to ignore, and yet we are all too small to know how best to acknowledge it.
It's a difficult matter. Others—specifically, in broadcasting and in government—are wrestling with it too. And in each of these quarters there is a pat answer that doesn't fit. Honor the day with TV specials? Not if they include commercials, because our shared emotion about this day shouldn't be commandeered to assemble an audience for advertisers. And what about declaring a holiday? Also no, because holidays devolve too easily into vacation days. On Memorial Day, for example, most of us forget to remember.
In fact, declaring a holiday actually would be the less appropriate of these two ideas. Mass-media callousness at least would be business as usual, on a day when business as usual is what the murderers tried to disrupt. In place of a day off, this date should be the one occasion on our calendar when we are conscious of a commitment to continue forward.
Maybe you're at IMTS with me, reading from a copy of this issue that you picked up at the show. If so, take another look around. Look at the scope. Even in a down year, the show is enormous: 1.3 million square feet, 1,300 exhibitors and probably 100,000 registered attendees. We live in a place of such bounty, safety and hope that we can devote all of this just to thinking about manufacturing, just to the search for ways to serve one another better by producing more efficiently.
This is the kind of nation we have. And this is the nature of our civilization.
While others hate, in other words, we keep on showing up for work. A trade show such as IMTS—or for that matter, a harvest, a shipment, a construction project, a school day, a financial projection, or any other effort aimed at making instead of destroying—is perhaps the most fitting tribute we can give.