Uptown, 'Beautiful September Day … Then You Look Behind You'

Direct marketers were among those forced to evacuate lower Manhattan after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Uni-Mail List Corp., at 42 Broadway, is just a few blocks from the disaster site. The company was forced to close its offices late in the morning.

“At about 10 a.m., in my office I heard this noise, which was the first tower collapsing, and the lights kind of flickered and it got really dark out,” said Uni-Mail president Michael Bryant. “It was appalling to be down there. I walked home — there was no transportation. You get like 20 blocks north of this, it's like a beautiful September day again, and then you look behind you.”

Bryant said it took almost two hours before all of his employees got out once the dust settled. Everyone made it out fine.

“I had several people who come in through the PATH trains. Everybody found a place to stay in the city,” he said. “We'll probably be shut tomorrow and be open for business like the rest of America on Thursday.”

Also near the disaster area is American Express, which has a financial service office at 200 Vesey St., but calls to the office went unanswered.

Direct Marketing Association offices in New York and Washington, DC, were operating, though employees were set to leave earlier in the afternoon. The DMA had to make overnight arrangements for five people visiting for a seminar and a meeting from its Washington staff.

DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen warned that the terrorist attack would hurt retail and remote sales.

“Sales around the country — Internet, phone, catalog sales — are going to be affected,” he said. “In times of crisis, this diverts people's attention, and direct marketing sales will decline. That usually isn't made up anywhere.”

During the Persian Gulf War, direct marketing response rates fell because people were glued to their television sets watching the news reports. Especially hard hit were DRTV marketers, who were locked in to time slots that were negotiated months earlier.

Meanwhile, Wientzen said this week's Direct Marketing to Business conference in Philadelphia would continue as planned.

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