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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

The Ability to Bounce Back

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, as I was driving across Laurel Canyon to a breakfast meeting at Art's Deli, I was thinking about how glad everyone was that 2002 had arrived;it heralded a fresh start for all of us, an opportunity to set a catastrophic year behind us.

Yet as I listened to the news this morning, January 9th, the audio
stream of information coming from my radio mostly had to do with
September 11th, the event we are so eager to put behind us. Major news
stories are the offshoots of the reactions to that day's events. There
was an interview with an Afghani official, an interview with an American
who was just back from Kabul, an update on security measures and a story
about a fired and disgruntled employee of San Onofre's nuclear plant who
just happened to have 150 guns in his house and storage shed as well as
thousands of rounds of ammo.

We are, naturally, much more sensitive about people who are former
disgruntled employees of nuclear power plants today than we were, say,
Sept 10.

The theme people seem to want is that we are getting back to normal and
we are but, as I have said before, this is a new normal. I am now
adjusted to seeing soldiers in the airport. I am resigned to having to
do things like take my shoes off, if necessary, so they can be x-rayed.
I no longer can plan on just making it to planes and give myself at
least two hours from arrival at the airport to get to my plane.

These are the new standards by which we live.

On Sunday night, having just flown in from New York, I went to dinner at
the Napa Valley Bistro in Westwood with an old, dear friend who, in the
middle of dinner, grabbed my hand and told me how brave I was.


You fly! You have flown, more than once and not because there was a
family emergency!

She can't, not yet.

I had a meeting while in Los Angeles with a development executive who
said: I haven't. I know I should. I need to. I don't want to. I
guess I'll have to. Next week. Or the week after. Soon.

We are still afraid and we are integrating into our lives a reality:
fear will be part of our lives for quite some time if not for the rest
of our lives.

One report this morning reminded us that the Al Qaeda usually took
twelve to eighteen months between strikes - so we have a wait in front
of us. It's not going away and, as one person pointed out this week, it
probably won't be a commercial jetliner. They've done planes, said
another friend.

In the midst of this, we have to get back to living, doing things,
making a living for god's sake! Networks still need to be programmed
and slots filled. The markets will continue to trade and Argentina will
have to deal with its fiscal mess.

But at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, F-16's will be at the ready
and troops will patrol the streets. Utah may become a no-fly zone and
this makes me sad. I understand; I accept; I am saddened.

In the middle of one meeting in Los Angeles, a television exec for whom
I had produced a program a few years ago told me that he was amazed at
how resilient the American people were.

His take was that all of us are moving into denial, a fierce plunge into
a future that we are determined to believe will be emotionally,
financially, psychologically the way we were on Labor Day, 2001.

I agree, we are remarkably resilient but I don't for a minute believe
that people are throwing up the wall of denial. The Trojan Horse has
been let through that wall, Troy has burned and we're rebuilding.

However, we are remarkably resilient. Not just us as Americans but we
as a race, a species. We live in hope. With one rather tattered former
Soviet Union jet, the Afghan National Airline is starting to fly again.
The Afghani government has started to encourage tourism.

Personally, I think that is taking optimism to a bit of an extreme but,
why not? Sometime we will go there and take our tours of the caves of
Tora Bora and walk through the ruins of Mullah Omar's house. It's our
nature as human beings, to want to physically connect with the source of

Ground Zero now has a viewing platform. There are those who are
outraged, who feel some sin is being committed by those who want to go
but for the most part I am humbled by the motives of those I've
encountered who want to make the journey downtown. They want to go
because the act of going is an act of respect, of honor, of somehow
paying tribute in some small way to the dead and to those who have

Not all, but most, of the people who go are driven by their desire for a
moment to give respect.

It is that act of going to give respect at Ground Zero, the thought that
Americans might one day come to Afghanistan as tourists, that Afghans
struggle to reopen their airport and to restart their airline - all of
this speaks to what we have learned in the last months. We'll keep
going and we will do our best with the events that are given us.

It is the resilience of the human being that is one of our most lovable
qualities. It is something that is amazing. Resilience.