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For Whom the Bell Tolls

When death visits suddenly and senselessly, it is a reminder of the interconnectedness we all share.

I was strongly move not to write about the events of September 11 at all on this page. It seemed that everything that could be said had been said.

The images of terror and disaster have been played and replayed. The ventings of anger and righteousness (and sadness and remorse) have filled the media and e-mail queues, and have been repeated, over and over, in seemingly endless duplication and replication.

And yet, there is something in all of us that cries out for expression at times like the one we are in now. As John Donne so eloquently wrote nearly four centuries ago, we are all diminished by the death of others. And when death visits suddenly and senselessly, as it did in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, it is an acute reminder not only of our own mortality but also of the interconnectedness we all share.

Some years ago, the phrase "six degrees of separation" was popularized as a shorthand way to describe the modern sense of this interconnectedness among people.

Taken from the title of John Guare’s play and later the film of the same name, the phrase seemed to perfectly sum up the powerful idea that in a networked, global society, any two people can find a connection, often simply by means of their own shared acquaintances.

The events of September 11 made many of us think about this interconnectedness we share but often ignore. It is hard to find anyone who does not know a friend or business associate who was directly affected, or one with such an acquaintance only a degree or two away.

In my own family’s case, the reactions of horror quickly became personal when we learned that the son of an old friend was one of the New York City firemen who rushed into the World Trade Center that day, only to be lost moments later.

As reports from many of our readers have made clear, scores of foodservice operations were sprinkled throughout the World Trade Center’s towers and floors. While it will be a long time until all the victims are identified, there will undoubtedly be a number of foodservice workers and managers among those on the eventual casualty list.

Foodservice, as we all know only too well, remains an industry that is staffed by individuals who often earn only a modest living from their labors, and whose families are typically limited in their resources. Many in the industry have been struggling with this knowledge, and trying to come up with a way to extend support to the families of such victims, particularly those that may have lost their primary means of support.

The Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, an initiative to address the needs of this group, has just been established by the owners and chefs of several affected establishments in the Trade Center. The fund will be administered by J.P. Morgan, Chase & Co., and David Berdon & Co. LLP.

This group plans a number of fundraising activities in coming weeks. In the meantime, readers of this magazine and others in our industry who wish to make a donation can send their contributions to the Society for Foodservice Management, which will be cooperating with the Fund to raise money that can be used to provide assistance to those who were affected.

SFM will be accepting individual donations through Saturday, November 3. It also is encouraging its members to set aside October 11 to join other foodservice establishments in donating a percentage of their foodservice sales that day to the fund.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact SFM headquarters at 304 W. Liberty St., Suite 201, Lousiville Kentucky, 40202. (Phone: 502-583-3783). Checks should be made payable to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund.

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