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Sunday, September 16, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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'It's important as a nation that we do carry on' — Jim Sinegal, president and CEO, Costco Wholesale

Jim Sinegal was in the shower when his wife told him the news of Tuesday's attacks. When the president and chief executive of Costco Wholesale arrived at the company's Issaquah headquarters, he found that the phones were hopping.

"At that time, I think I was just too numb to respond to anything," Sinegal said. "People were calling and asking, 'How is this going to affect the economy?' That was the last thing on my mind."

Sinegal called his East Coast managers to assess the impact on stores in New York and Washington, D.C. Warehouse stores in Brooklyn, Queens and Lawrence, N.Y., and Pentagon City, Va., were forced to close. But the Brooklyn and Pentagon stores soon became makeshift command centers. The stores supplied rescue teams with water, blankets, even dog food for K-9 units.

Costco's other 260 U.S. stores remained open, partly because the warehouse retailer sells staple items such as food and prescriptions, Sinegal said.

"We told our employees if they were too traumatized to work, they could go home, but we were going to stay open because we had essential products."

But Sinegal said staying open was also a symbolic decision.

"It's important as a nation that we do carry on. We're not going to let this destroy us."

That's not to say Costco hasn't made changes in response to the attacks. Sinegal said the company has installed around-the-clock security at many of its stores abroad.

As for the U.S. economy, Sinegal said, "I think we're going to be fine. I think you'll see a rallying in the country that has been unprecedented over the last 50 years."

— Jake Batsell

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