A Sept. 11 Prospectus

Commentary about business and finance.
Oct. 25 2001 12:39 AM

A Sept. 11 Prospectus

The folks at RearGuard tell you how to turn trauma into money.  


Investment Advisory From the RearGuard™ Funds


In uncertain times such as these, we at the RearGuard Funds do not need to remind our clients that homeland security starts with sound financial planning. With the flag- and Cipro-producing industries overbought, many of you have been asking about investment opportunities with the potential to prosper through and beyond the current crisis. Look no further than the grief industry.

An Industry Poised for Dynamic Growth

For centuries, the job of comforting the afflicted has been relegated to the nonprofit sector. Growth potential was limited in that services were not only typically provided by unpaid clergy but also confined to victims of tragedy or their immediate survivors. Even in major disasters such as the World Trade Center attacks, this clientele numbers at most in the tens of thousands, an insufficient market to sustain a vibrant and competitive industry. A market breakthrough occurred in the 1990s when the proliferation of 24/seven cable news and the subsequent burgeoning of the Internet made it technologically possible for closure-providing practitioners to extend their reach far beyond the limited customer base provided by the directly injured or bereaved. With the help provided by President Clinton in his role as empathizer-in-chief, they laid the foundation for a dynamic and lucrative new industry.

Large-scale grief intervention first came into its own with the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. The 1996 crash of TWA 800 off Long Island gave the industry another high-profile opportunity, although airline bungling of next-of-kin handling necessitated direct intervention by the president and his spouse. The following year, however, the industry gained further credibility by negotiating 13 separate contracts with the Commerce Department to soothe employees after the plane crash death of Secretary Ron Brown. By 1997, the year of Princess Diana's death, the Washington Post reported that more than 1,600 grief counselors and services were listed in a new National Directory of Bereavement Support, colleges were offering majors in death and grief, and the 2,000-member Association for Death Education and Counseling welcomed an international crowd at its annual conference.

The year 1999 was a banner one for the industry, encompassing not only the Columbine High massacre and the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., but also the crash of Cairo-bound Egypt Air Flight 990, in which the industry sidestepped a potential PR setback. Both Princess Di and JFK Jr. also provided crucial momentum for the industry's move into cyberspace. While grief-sharing Web sites associated with their deaths were primarily of the chat-room variety, the industry's growing sophistication is evidenced by the subsequent proliferation of professionally sponsored Web sites ready to respond to solace-seekers in the wake of 9/11. (See, for example, Freedom From Fear, the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Alliance [representing four national organizations], the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the Madison Institute of Medicine.) The instability of Web-based enterprises is well known to RearGuard clients, but the fact that these are essentially referral sites to bricks-and-mortar organizations should, in our view, alleviate such concerns.

An Exploding Customer Base

The intensity of media attention to the 9/11 attacks will itself provide huge momentum to the grief industry. EAPs (employee assistance programs) have proliferated in corporations nationwide since the attacks. Moreover, employers expect worker participation to increase even absent further large-scale terrorist atrocities. "The real fallout will happen two or three months down the road [when] everything seems normal," the head of the Washington-based Center for Loss and Grief recently told the Wall StreetJournal.

The tragedy also opened up new targets of opportunity. For example, the Associated Press recently reported that atheists feel neglected in the recent rituals of public mourning. "We are essentially being left out formally of the grieving process simply because we will not let ourselves get emotionally involved with a supernatural cause and effect," said Ron Barrier, national spokesman for American Atheists Inc.

Pet bereavement counseling is also in a nascent stage. Scattered groups, such as Rockville Pet Bereavement in Maryland, offer counseling to owners who have lost a pet. However, as WashingtonPost columnist Bob Levey has noted ("Are Our Pets Reacting to Sept.11?"), scant attention has been paid to the post-traumatic stress transferred to pets by grieving owners.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data


The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM What Happens When You Serve McDonald’s to Food Snobs and Tell Them It’s Organic
Oct. 23 2014 4:36 PM Vampire Porn Mindgeek is a cautionary tale of consolidating production and distribution in a single, monopolistic owner.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.