My world changed four months before September 11, when we learned my husband had cancer. This news came as much out of the blue as the terrorist attacks, and it altered our personal universe just as the world was altered on a global scale after 9/11.

Reality shifted instantly. There was the nostalgic “before” time, when the future stretched comfortably ahead, and the horrifying “after,” when the future had become uncertain. Yet Joe and I had the best summer ever of our 16-year marriage. His cancer treatments will end in late November. Each day continues to be a gift.

The lessons we learned helped us to accept our new reality and to move forward — even to thrive — in difficult times.

  • Choose to see the cup as half full, not half empty

    Sometimes, there is no happy ending. Read our cover story about Aon Corp. (page 30), which lost some 200 employees when New York's World Trade Center was hit, and your heart wants to break. But this is also a story about a planning team who worked 24/7 to help their company and the families of their lost colleagues, and suppliers who jumped right in, even donating meeting room space for crisis centers. Their actions reflect the best part of human nature. Choosing to focus on them gives us hope.

  • Adapt to the “new normal.”

    The insurance industry suffered more catastrophic damage from the 9/11 attacks than any other. So how can you get on with business in this post-terror world that stretches insurers to the max, not knowing if you'll even have a job tomorrow? Proceed normally, with the awareness that change is a constant. Do what you've always done. There's a certain comfort in performing everyday tasks. Don't let fear stop you from traveling. Learn about security measures to help keep travel and meetings safe (see page 38), and educate both senior management and attendees about safety. Recognize that the scope of your job may change.

  • Create communities

    Reaching out to each other, personally and professionally, empowers us. After 9/11, I called many of you to find out how your meetings were affected. Because I had recently taken over as editor of ICP, I felt tuned in to our community of readers for the first time, and completely changed the content of this issue. I also discovered that you were reaching out to fellow planners and industry suppliers in an unprecedented way. (Turn to page 37 to find out how Monumental Life Insurance recouped $1.5 million of nonrefundable supplier deposits after canceling its late September incentive program.) Continuing to nurture these communities will enable you to accomplish far more than you would on your own.

  • Take time to smell the roses

    This lesson isn't about work, it's about life. Don't let it pass you by.