By John S. McClenahen Hires are on hold. And so is capital spending. The words are familiar, with so many large companies reassessing their business plans in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. And now comes documentation that small businesses in the U.S. are doing much the same as their larger counterparts. "Small-business owners seem to have taken the attack personally, with far fewer seeing hope for sales gains," says William Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Washington. NFIB's Small Business Optimism Index fell by five points between the first half of September and the second half of the month to its lowest reading since 1993. And expected real sales went negative -- down 17 points -- for the first time since NFIB began conducting its Small Business Economic Trends survey on a monthly basis in 1986.