A Day When PR Didn’t Matter 9-11-2001

Like the countless others throughout the country who will never forget watching the horrors of September 11, 2001 unfold before their very eyes on television, the memories of that day are etched forever in my mind. At the time, I was co-owner of O’Leary & Cosentino Communications, and worked from my home in Morganville, NJ. That morning I had taken my father to the doctor for a 7:30 a.m. appointment. I had dropped him and my aunt back at their place in Parlin, 10 minutes from my home and then drove home with the radio off. When I walked into the house right around 9 a.m. my phone rang and my older son John was on the line telling me to put on CNN because a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. We both speculated it must have been a small prop plane. As I put the television on I saw a jet liner come up behind the World Trade Center and fly right into it. I told Johnny, “this is not a small plane. We’re under attack!” Within minutes he was home and the two of us became glued to the screen for the rest of the morning and afternoon. I never once went back into my office to check on work. At that moment, we were at war. What I did as a public relations executive did not matter.

This held true over the next few days as I volunteered at my church, St. Clement Church in Matawan, which became a hub for the transport of supplies to Ground Zero. There was no way I could focus on anything else. How could writing a press release or advisory matter now? There were no pitch calls to make. Everything was focused on 9/11. Then again, how could I even consider promoting a client’s initiative while brave construction workers, fire fighters and police were digging through the rubble at Ground Zero searching for survivors.

Who would have thought that my public relations career would end on this note? I actually considered getting out at that moment. Everything I did for a living didn’t matter anymore. How could it? I even started researching public affairs jobs with governmental agencies and law enforcement. We were at war and I needed to be involved. To think, a week or so earlier I was on the field at Foxboro Stadium for the championship game of the inaugural season of the Women’s United Soccer Association. Business was great, I was happy with my career and looking forward to an even better 2002. However, the tragedy of that Tuesday morning in September changed everything. Nothing would ever be the same.

It took a few weeks before I did get back into the swing of things. I was able to reengage and do the job that clients were paying me to do. Since then, I have launched two different public relations companies and worked on some great programs.

This Sunday as the 10th anniversary of 9-11 is observed and commemorated, I will once again reflect on those horrible moments. My prayers and thoughts will be with the families who lost loved ones that day and the thousands that have since lost their lives defending our freedom. On this day there will be no posting to Twitter or Facebook or media monitoring on behalf of clients. This is not a day for PR. It’s a day to never forget and that’s all that matters.

Tom Cosentino

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