A rear-view glance: Remembering September 11Friday, September 10, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 started as a typical day for Kent LaCroix — chairman of Jamaica's Auto Dealers' Association (ADA). But, as the morning progressed, he quickly realised this was not going be the case.
“A newsflash came on television that a plane had crashed into New York's World Trade Center,” LaCroix recalled.
“My initial feeling was one of incredulity. I just couldn't believe it, and when everything came to light, it was: 'Could that really have happened?'. We're just in shock,” he continued.
Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks on United States soil by Islamic militants. They claimed nearly 3,000 lives and injured more than 6,000 people. Twenty Jamaicans were among the dead. George W Bush, then US president, subsequently waged a War on Terror on the mastermind, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He was killed by US forces in May 2011.
LaCroix, long-time head of the eight-member organisation, recalls the effects 9/11 had on the new-car sector.
“There was an immediate fallout in the tourism sector, and tourism and the auto industry are linked. The purchases of the new cars from the tourism sector is a vibrant one, so with a reduction (in purchases), it negatively affected the auto industry,” he said.
“The rent-a-car companies and rentals were impacted. The ripple effects would have been visitors no longer coming or not coming for a period of time. It was like the 'COVID' of those days,” he added.
The decline in air travel had dramatic impact on Caribbean states. At the time, regional airlines, including Bahamas Air, Air Jamaica, and BWIA (British West Indian Airways), recorded significant losses, and were not able benefit from bailout packages the US carriers received from the American Government. According to the Associated Press, cruise ship arrivals were also hard-hit. Jamaica saw a decline by 28.7 per cent, Puerto Rico had a 25.8 per cent drop, while there was a 19.6 per cent dip in the Cayman Islands.
Two decades ago, Ken Shaw was LaCroix's used-car counterpart at the Jamaica Used-Car Dealers Association (JUCDA). He remembers, as if it were yesterday, where he was on September 11 2001.
“I was actually driving to Kingston from Ocho Rios and there was the newsflash on the radio... And I started getting calls and pictures. I was in total awe. I could never imagined at the time that, in my lifetime, I'd see something that I would normally watch in a movie like blow-up buildings and that sort of thing,” he told the Jamaica Observer's Auto magazine.
Shaw — principal of KACS Auto Sales and Service in Kingston — said the used-car sector sources the majority of its vehicles from Japan, so there was no immediate fallout from the attack.
“It didn't immediately because, it didn't affect the dollar, as the dollar didn't move significantly,” he said.
That, however, wasn't the reality for the United States. Fearing an economic collapse, Bush encouraged his countrymen to go shopping and major automakers got in on the act to 'Keep America Rolling'.
Shaw, like LaCroix, sees similarities then with current global realities.
“Similarly, the pandemic now, you watch these things in a movie about pandemics and the world come to this crunch. And we're in a time now, we're actually living through one... and experiencing the horrors, the sorrows, the heartache and the hardships associated with it,” he said.
“We will get pass it. We're a resilient people. It's gonna be a long haul for us because of non-compliance, ignorance, and just the way we do things. But we'll get pass it.”
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