The Day Arthur Murray Kept the Lights On
I was half asleep when I picked up the phone. There was a familiar voice on the other end, then a hurried order to turn on the TV.
So I hit the power button on the oversized projection television just in time to see something that looked like a movie... but it wasn't. My rational brain was still lobbying my body to go back to sleep when four words triggered a lightning bolt of panic, "isn't your sister there?"
It was the morning of September 11th, 2001 and Juan and Cari Jo Garcia had called me just before the second plane made impact.
My sister was attending a performing arts school in Manhattan and I watched the horror unfold with the same dread a parent might feel when their kid gets lost in a grocery store. I was like a computer in safe mode, reduced to one basic task - find my sister.
I tried calling repeatedly. Nothing.
Whether it was habit, numbness, or a deep underlying need, I went to work that day. When I arrived, my team at Arthur Murray San Jose was like a blanket of reassurance. It was like a wolf pack protecting one of their wounded.
"We are going to dance this out" was the common refrain.
But then our Supervisor, Bobby Gonzalez, helped me, and the rest of the team, change our collective focus. "We need to be the lighthouse. We need to be the place where our students can feel the benefits of our dance community."
Immediately it hit me: There are people in our student body that feel the same way and they need the same support. That day, I felt like more than just a worried brother, more than just an employee, and definitely more than a dance teacher.
All day, our students came in and thanked us for being open, for letting them dance it out, and for being a place that reminded them that there are still positive people in the world.
Eventually, I got ahold of my sister. She was safe, shaken up, but untouched by the physical damage of the horrible events of that day.
Putting it in Perspective
With our staff, we talk a lot about teamwork. But we don't stop there.
Any group of co-workers can be referred to as a team. There are sports teams that are just a collection of employees who happen to wear the same uniform, but that doesn't mean much in terms of how they view themselves or their purpose together.
It's how you respond to adversity that will turn that team into a family.
I learned that valuable lesson when I experienced that both personally and professionally on September 11th 2001. Adversity, and our collective response to it, can be the glue that clarifies the heart of what we do and binds us closer together.
Going through that gave me a lot of perspective and an appreciation for so many Arthur Murray professionals from generations past. It made me stop and think of the things they had to deal with in the world outside of Arthur Murray.
Arthur Murray has been around since 1912. That mean that, as a company, we've continued to operate, grow, and flourish through two World Wars, the Great Depression, September 11th, and so much more.
Whether it was the housing bubble or the dot com bubble, the Y2K bug or the Swine flu - we've been through it, it has helped us to refine our purpose, and similar challenges will continue to do the same.
The Challenges Today
As of the time of this publication, all of our lives have gone through a dramatic change with the COVID-19 epidemic. While there is reason for concern, and plenty who will panic, I know that we will do whatever we can to keep the lighthouse lit.
Medical professionals will continue to mend our ailments, postal employees will continue to deliver the mail, and police and fire departments will continue to keep us all safe.
So why should we be any different?
We may not be able to control the darkness and gloom of the world around us, but we have complete control over how we respond to it.
While our dance studios may experience many changes, transitions, and pivots in this process, the heart behind what we do is steadfast, undeterred, and will continue to be a lighthouse of positivity.
On behalf of all the Arthur Murray professionals around the world, I want to thank our students for your support and mutual admiration for what we love to do. We may have been a team before but we will come out of this a much stronger family.
"There are two ways of spreading light: Be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it."
- Edith Wharton