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[whitespace] Connecting

In the wake of the terrorism, the Internet became a place to find loved ones and relate first-hand accounts

By Nina Willdorf

WITH PHONE lines down, many Americans turned to the World Wide Web to share stories and gather information about Tuesday's terrifying events as they unfolded.

Just as when the Gulf War played out on television, with 24-hour CNN coverage, today's beefed-up Internet venues raced to compete. Chat rooms and websites exploded with late breaking news and views. And as the Gulf War effectively cast CNN as the around-the-clock news network, what's being called "Black Tuesday" casts the web as a network--one that adds personal accounts and immediate responses to what's being reported on the news. Sure enough, by early afternoon, Reuters reported that CNN.com was at maximum capacity, MSNBC.com and MSN.com added new servers, and AOL saw a spike in its volume of Instant Messages. We added to the traffic, scoping out the online scene.

Diaryland Across the Web, anecdotal first-person accounts abounded. On a site called Diaryland.com, Riot718 shared her story:

"i work at houston street and i have a clear shot view of the world trade center. i did anyway. now i see smoke and empty sky. people were jumping out of the WTC. people JUMPED. this is like the movies. only worse because no one is rolling any credits."

iVillage The women's community site iVillage.com started a "When Crisis Strikes" chat room, and people all over the world furiously banged out stories, rumors, and good wishes.

Tooldog wrote, "Up until recently I walked by the Trade Center each morning, about the time the first plane hit, on my way to a dot-com job about a block away from there. That company went bust in August and now I'm a stay-at-home-dad. I would have been right there in the middle of it. Even if I made it to my office, I'm sure the windows would have blown in, or worse...."

The Fray On Slate.com's community web forum, "The Fray," MBD dubbed the series of events "Black Tuesday."

He writes: "Again I am reminded of the hysteria and rumors swirling around the obvious terror bombing and skyjacking of airliners: what my parents and grandparents went through in the hours after Pearl Harbor, almost 60 years ago. I hope to God Bush and the military pinpoint the monsters and send them and their loved ones to hell."

Digital City AOL's Digital City swiftly set up a room called "Offer Condolences and Support."

HellsHair wrote: "I know where my tax refund is going. The Red Cross will need an astronomical amount of supplies. I am forwarding my tax refund to them."

Craig's List Craigslist.org, a community-bulletin-board website with locations in various US cities, created a board in New York called "9/11 Disaster Forum" with this cautious reminder: "As rumors fly about the perpetrators, let's not compound this terrible tragedy by bashing ethnic or religious groups for the acts of fringe extremists."

Online Headlines The international papers had stories up within hours:

Headline from Italy's daily newspaper, Corriere Della Serra: "Attack on the USA, planes like bombs."

From Britain's Guardian: "The latest dispatches under the heading America's day of terror."

Top headline on Worldnetdaily.com: "Day of infamy 2001--U.S. at war with terror, suicide jetliners destroy World Trade Center, Pentagon in flames in Pearl Harbor-style attack."

Talking Points Meanwhile, while the rubble was still dropping, thousands were stuck in debris, and planes were still unaccounted for, Palestinian Media Watch offered "Talking Points on the Catastrophe": "Many have already been contacted by the media for commentary on the attacks in NYC and Washington. Here are possible talking points:

1) This is an awful catstrophe [sic].

2) Our first thoughts must be with the victims.

3) We condemn acts of terror in the strongest possible ways.

4) It is important not to jump to conclusions about who or how this was caused and to wait for the situation to be clear.

No need to say anything else."

The Center Still, there was one website that was consistently unavailable: www.wtc-top.org, the Top of the World Trade Center.

Printed with permission of the Boston Phoenix.

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From the September 13-19, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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