On Monday evening, March 25th, I finished writing a guest column for the Baltimore Business Journal about my excitement for the baseball season ahead, and the hope that the optimism surrounding the young and talented Orioles might carry over to the psyche of the region at large. Baltimore, as we all know, can always use a boost. 

You can find the column here* and I hope that you’ll give it a read because I am proud of the work and the words; but also must acknowledge that the news cycle changed pretty quickly the next morning. (*please send me an email to greg@abelcommunications.com if you’d like to read the column but don’t have a subscription).

I hit send on the column to the BBJ editor around 5 p.m. on Monday and woke up Tuesday the 26th to the news that the Francis Scott Key Bridge had collapsed into the Patapsco River. The footage of our giant, skyline-defining bridge buckling and submerging sent shockwaves throughout the region, even the world. The realization that lives had been lost created an air of heaviness and sadness that’s been hard to shake since. A massive blow to Baltimore had been struck; crippling our port and, perhaps unfairly, sending the world a stunning visual of a tragic event taking place here in Baltimore. 

While there is no silver lining to the loss of the bridge and especially the loss of life, there are certainly some hard lessons learned and realizations being brought into focus. Last week I attended a Greater Baltimore Committee event at the Hilton BWI where the organization unveiled its inaugural Baltimore Region Economic Scorecard. 

Every speaker, from host Vic Carter of WJZ-TV, to GBC CEO Mark Anthony Thomas, to Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman, to Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman began their comments – appropriately – by recognizing the bridge tragedy and the need to honor the lives lost while moving the region forward.

Pittman’s words stuck with me the most as he reflected on what people are learning in the aftermath of the collapse. Paraphrasing, he said we are all learning about the importance of the port to the region’s economy; we are learning about the importance of infrastructure; and we are learning about the value of immigrant workers and the role they play in the economy. 

“It’s an incredible moment for the region,” he said. 

This story will be around for a very long time; as phases of the cleanup and rebuilding continue. There will also be the stories of the reopening of the port, the impact to the labor market, and the ability of Baltimore to bounce back.

A new alliance with the rallying cry, “Maryland Tough, Baltimore Strong” was unveiled last week, providing a home base for donations, support, and teamwork to restore the Key Bridge and the economy around it. An incredible moment indeed. 

Back to baseball for a moment. Just two days after the bridge collapsed, I found myself at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, anticipating the start of a new season. Our company has long held a tradition of closing the office on Opening Day and celebrating Baltimore. Downtown last Thursday, I met up with friends and family before the game and eventually sat in the stands with my brothers, my teenage son and my dad as the game began; we were there together a few hours later as the fireworks went off to celebrate an Os win.

Just a few miles away, of course, rescue workers and public officials worked in and around the murky depths of the Patapsco River to assess the damage, search for those lost and figure out, “what’s next?”

The heaviness of the moment lingers. My hope for the region, of course, is that we rise to the challenge that this tragedy presents and Baltimore emerges stronger in the long run. It will take teamwork, collaboration, and time.

Along the way, business, sports, and life will go on and those of us who tell Baltimore’s stories need to double down on putting forth a positive image for this challenged but resilient community. As Upsurge Baltimore CEO Korey Bailey said in his remarks, “Where there is challenge there is opportunity… we get knocked down, but we always get back up.”