Wednesday September 12, 2001 8:01 PM ET
By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With phone lines sometimes jammed and emotions still running high, millions of Americans reached out to friends, relatives and colleagues via e-mail on Wednesday, a day after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history shook the nation.
U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell urged Americans early on Wednesday to be patient as companies worked to keep basic communications systems, such as telephone and mobile phone services operating.
But many grew impatient. ``I got through to about one out of 40 calls this morning,'' said one Manhattan resident, voicing a grievance echoed by many.
People also complained about jammed Internet networks, although e-mail for many was still the initial link with loved ones during the crisis.
``My friend e-mailed me Tuesday morning to say she wasn't coming because we were under terrorist attack. I thought she was joking, but when I called the airline, they were telling me things were closing down and I turned on the TV,'' said Jane Clark, an actress in Los Angeles.
Throughout the day, Clark said she received e-mails from friends in New York telling her they were okay. It was also through e-mail that she finally got word to another friend, worried about his father, who had scheduled a business appointment at the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning.
A sampling of Web exchanges between family members and friends over the past two days offer haunting glimpses of the shocking events that unfolded through the nation.
'WORLD SEEMS LIKE IT'S FALLING APART'
``I hope everything's all right out there. I watched the World Trade Center collapse this morning from my window at work. The world seems like it's falling apart,'' wrote a New York computer technician to his sister in California.
``My main concern was a cousin who works in Morgan Stanley. Luckily, he answered my e-mail almost immediately on Tuesday and said he was working on 27th street,'' said Bruce Forest, a Connecticut-based media consultant.
Investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter had 3,500 employees in the World Trade Center, which was demolished by two hijacked airplanes on Tuesday. Another hijacked airplane plowed into the Pentagon. Thousands are feared dead.
A spokesman for America Online, a unit of AOL Time Warner (NYSE:AOL), said AOL users sent 1.2 billion instant messages on Tuesday as they tried to seek out loved ones or simply vent their emotions, up 10 percent from a typical day.
``People appeared to be using Instant Messaging to reach out to people, to make contacts with friends and family. It was another communications option,'' said a spokesman for AOL. No figures were yet available for Wednesday.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT), which operates MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger services, declined to provide traffic figures, but said it was continuing work to ensure its lines for e-mail services were open during the crisis.
CHAT ROOMS SWELL WITH EMOTION
Internet chat rooms also swelled with emotion as conspiracy theorists, shocked well-wishers and revenge-seekers exchanged impassioned words.
``I really want to be in NYC now either to help or to give blood to hospitals there,'' said a message from a person named Ishtraki, who signed off as ``an Egyptian.''
Other messages were far more hostile as popular sentiment among Net users grew that suspected Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden was behind the coordinated plane hijackings.
``If Osama bin Laden is responsible for these attacks, rest assured that not only will America be prepared to wipe this despicable excuse for a human being off the face of the earth,'' wrote a person identified as ``Tom, a Canadian.''
Several organizations also created message boards to help families find each other during the crisis.
Internet Service provider Prodigy said on Wednesday it created a National ``I'm Okay'' Message Center to help people find one another at (http://okay.prodigy.net/).
``This message center is designed so people can post a message sharing that they are 'Okay' and where they are. Loved ones can go to the site and search for friends and family they are trying to reach,'' said a spokesman.
The University of California at Berkeley also created a Web site to help people trying to locate friends and loved ones in New York and Washington, D.C. (http://safe.millennium.berkeley.edu), while AOL also created message boards on its site specifically to speed up communication in those areas.
Wednesday September 12, 2001
Amid the chaos wrought by Tuesday's attacks on the nation's financial and military centers, the Internet infrastructure remained largely intact and e-mail served as a primary means of communication for many who couldn't make phone calls on a heavily taxed phone system.
Around the world, millions turned to the Internet seeking to reach loved ones and grasping for information that would help them comprehend the horror straining some Web sites which saw a sharp surge in traffic. E-mail and instant messaging provided a communications lifeline for those unable to communicate through landline or wireless phones.
A mere blocks from the World Trade Center, office workers were able to e-mail friends and family members reassuring them of their well being.
Major telecommunications companies said that while their network infrastructures were largely unscathed, the flood of phone calls caused frequent interruptions to service, particularly in the Northeast. International phone calls were also affected.
Keynote Systems, an Internet monitoring firm, said that the Internet backbone infrastructure was not significantly affected, although performance of countless of Web sites declined sharply.
By late Tuesday, Internet service was close to normal and most telephone calls were getting through. On Wednesday, Keynote reported no major disruptions in Internet traffic, though overall performance of the network remained below normal levels. "The news sites are by and large back to normal in terms of performance and availability," said Mary Lindsay, a Keynote spokeswoman.
Several Internet companies offered their support in various ways, as the nation sought to pull together in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Amazon.com and Yahoo, for instance, are using their Internet billing systems to allow people to make donations to the American Red Cross. By midday Wednesday, Amazon reported that more than 28,000 users had made contributions totaling more than $760,000 through its site.
Meanwhile, online auctioneer eBay swiftly banned the sale of items connected with the destruction of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, to prevent people from profiting from the tragedy. A search on eBay on Wednesday showed several dozen items related to the attacks, including photographs, old postcards of the World Trade Center, copies of the New York Post and t-shirts, were offered for sale. But clicking on any of the items took users to a page that said: "The item you requested is invalid or no longer in our database."
In an email to New York-based Internet magazine Silicon Alley Reporter, Ken Seiff, the CEO of online retailer Bluefly.com, offered to make vacant office space available to companies that were displaced by the destruction in lower Manhattan.
"We currently have about 9,000 s.f of temporarily vacant space which we are donating to Companies who have been displaced," Seiff wrote. "If anyone needs space they should call Sharon at 212-944-8000 ext 311 and leave a message or email her at email@example.com. We hope this is helpful in some small way."
Silicon Alley Reporter editor Jason Calacanis also offered some of his company1s midtown office space to displaced companies. The contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 473-2201.
People in New York City and around the globe turned to the Internet on Tuesday to communicate with their families and to grasp the horrific sequence of terrorist attacks that transformed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon into disaster zones.
Unable to connect via wireless and landline phones, many New Yorkers posted messages on Web sites, signed on to instant chat services, and used e-mail to contact loved ones.
"There is no phone service in or out of Manhattan, so e-mail is the way to communicate. We are OK," read one e-mail message a worker in New York's Equitable building sent to friends and relatives.
"The WTC is just 10 blocks above, and we all saw EVERYTHING happen as it unfolded," wrote another New York City worker. "We are all in shock. It is hard to work. We are also trapped into the city; we can not get home."
Some concerned New Yorkers even set up personal Web sites to have friends and family check in with each other and verify each other's well being. Bill Shun built a Web log asking friends and family from New York City and other affected cities to sign in showing that they were OK.
One New York resident who couldn't get to traditional news sources over a T-1 line jumped onto IRC (Internet Relay Chat), to find footage of the plane crashes and get information on the events.
"Normal Web/Net paths are overloaded...IRC has always been a good source of information when something like this happens...(It's) sort of a 'backdoor' to the rest of the Internet," said one New York-based IT manager who went by the handle "Man in Black." He said he found some good information about the events and "some rumors flying, of course, but I try to keep a level head."
He was joined by thousands using chat rooms to exchange information on the attacks. Already people have set up discussion groups using IRC under "Worldtradecenter," "Wtc" and "Terrorist-moderated."
IM services from Yahoo and America Online experienced increased demand as people sought to contact friends and family. A Yahoo representative said the company's network had experienced "an unprecedented increase in traffic" and had added more servers to handle the load. AOL said that it had seen a "small spike" in instant chat usage.
Web communities also bubbled up all over the Net to let people comfort one another and get information. People on Yahoo Groups created a public discussion group to share information on the attacks. Craig's List, an international community listing of jobs and related information, created an open forum on the disaster.
Others worried about false tips, and terrorist propaganda shut down a service called "remailing" that allows people to cloak their identity when posting to Internet sites and newsletters. One such service, called Randseed, was taken offline as "a precautionary measure," according to an e-mail from its operator, to thwart bogus threats or tips from anonymous senders. Remail services allow those who want to maintain their privacy online to anonymously send e-mail by bouncing it through several servers.
Businesses located in and around the World Trade Center also used the Internet to provide updates on the status of their operations.
The Marriott Hotel posted this notice on its Web site about its 800-room hotel at the World Trade Center: "The hotel has been evacuated. We are working closely with authorities and they are managing the situation. We will continue to monitor and provide updates as we have new information. We are activating a special number for inquiries, and it will be available soon."
The American Red Cross used the Internet to reach out for help, asking technology companies to donate Web advertising space to urge people to donate blood. Among the contact information given in the ads were 1-800-HELP NOW to reach the Red Cross and 1-800-GIVE LIFE for donating blood.
Morgan Stanley, headquartered in the World Trade Center, also posted a notice on its site about the collapse.
The law firm of Sidley Austin Brown and Wood, which has its New York office in the World Trade Center, used its Web site to let clients and employees' families know that it believed its workers were evacuated safely.
"Due to the tragic events that have occurred in New York and Washington this morning, we are closing all of our offices. We will keep you apprised of developments, as appropriate, via the Web site, voice mail and e-mails. Based on the information currently available to us, we understand that all of our personnel in the World Trade Center were evacuated safely."
The rush to find alternative modes of communication was partially the result of the loss of cell phone service in much of New York City after the attack.
Frank Davis had been trying to reach his wife, who left him a voice mail after getting out of a subway in Manhattan's financial district just a few minutes after the first plane struck.
Although she "sounded fine--just shaken," Davis said he had yet to reach her.
"Nothing has worked since about 9:15 a.m. (EDT), and it still isn't working," he said in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "I've been trying pretty much every 10 minutes."
Some cell-phone carriers asked customers to use alternative methods to communicate.
VoiceStream Wireless, for example, asked customers to use short text messaging, which is similar to sending instant messages on PCs. Such messages are sent over a different network so they don't clog the ones used for voice calls or emergencies, a VoiceStream spokeswoman explained.
Still, e-mail seemed to be the preferred communication tool.
Gartner analysts Maurene Grey, Joyce Graff and Robert Batchelder say the Internet forms the lifeline for business communications--one that may
work when others do not.
"It's just been impossible to get through on the phone lines this morning," Walker said. "So I've been sending e-mails to friends and family, letting them know what I know, trying to understand what's going on, making sure everything is OK."
He noted that many of the major news outlets on the Internet were unavailable when he tried to get further information on the attacks.
Tony Borelli, a senior writer for New York-based human resources consulting firm The Empower Group, sent e-mail to "everybody I could think of" after the attacks.
Borelli, who could see one of the towers from his office near the United Nations, said he sent out the e-mails "as soon as things got really bad because I knew people would worry about me. After that, the e-mails I got were from people worried about other folks in Manhattan, and news updates.
"We were at a window in our office on East 45th Street, watching the one twin tower burning. Then we walked away for a while. Then we came back, and the tower was gone, and there was just a huge volume of smoke in its place," he wrote in the e-mail.
"Now we're milling around, watching fighter planes roaring overhead, wondering how we're going to get off this island. All the bridges and tunnels and trains and airports are closed down. As I write this, the second twin tower has now collapsed."
CNET News.com's Margaret Kane, Ben Charny and Ian Fried contributed to this report.
By Maurene Grey, Joyce Graff and Robert Batchelder, Gartner Analysts
During Tuesday's terrorist attack on the United States, the Internet demonstrated that it is capable of fulfilling its function as a means of communication during a crisis. Every business should consider the Internet an integral component of its communications infrastructure.
During an emergency, a business will employ every communications path available. Although parts of the Internet use telecommunication facilities, the manner in which messages are routed makes the Internet less dependent on a single enterprise, carrier or geographic location.
The Internet survives through redundant design, as a network of networks. In the event of an emergency, enterprises must use Internet communications --for example, e-mail, instant messaging and Web sites--because such facilities enable real-time or near real-time information exchange.
At the outset of an emergency, a company's IS organization should quickly assess which systems and links are operational and, as required, reinforce the performance and capacity for each Internet system. Throughout the emergency, the IS organization should monitor Internet systems for degradation caused by service interruptions and traffic surges.
For example, if bandwidth becomes constrained, businesses can take nonessential applications offline for the duration of the emergency. If communication paths become flooded, businesses can limit nonessential communications to avoid compromising critical communications. Businesses can meet even highly secure communications needs over an inherently insecure infrastructure as long as they take measures to protect or encrypt the content.
Businesses must implement a strategy for employing all communications media available to account for all group members, whether they are on site or not. Since such activities will integrate disparate message streams, administrative personnel and procedures must employ special handling procedures to eliminate gaps and redundancies that can occur when the information is aggregated.
Businesses should expect to provide relaying services and act as communication forwarding points for parties in need of assistance. They should perform this function not only for employees and business partners but also for legitimate interested parties such as government officials and family members.
Many businesses have communities of instant-messaging users that often employ one or more of the most popular consumer instant-messaging systems--AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ or MSN Messenger. In many situations, users have installed instant messaging without their company's sanction. Nevertheless, in an emergency, instant messaging can provide an essential method for real-time Internet communications.
See news story:
Net offers lifeline amid tragedy
The Internet forms the lifeline for business communications--one that may work when others do not. Companies must develop business and technology processes for integrating Internet and other communications system so that lives and property can be protected in circumstances where reaction time counts most. For businesses, the Internet is no longer optional.
(For a related commentary on disaster recovery recommendations, see Gartner.com.)
Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.
Published Monday, November 26, 2001 in the Miami Herald
Moments after terrorists crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, untold numbers of panicky people found they could reach loved ones more quickly by e-mail than by telephone because overburdened voice-carrying lines had failed.
Now millions of Americans are turning the Internet into America's newest crisis shelter, discovering it can serve as a high-tech substitute for practices they once took for granted, such as traveling by plane or sending mail through the post office.
E-mail, the Internet's most popular function, is expected to get a boost, mainly from businesses that want to send solicitations via the Web to anthrax-skittish potential customers. Companies are changing tactics as well, promoting electronic bill-paying and using Web-based electronic conferencing more. The public's appetite for news and information online also is rising.
``The technology that was so novel 10 years ago is so pervasive now that it's no surprise people turn to it,'' says Laura Gurak, director of the Internet Studies Center on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus.
Whether the changes in America's behavior on the Internet will become permanent cannot be predicted, but many experts believe the attacks are accelerating usage trends that already were in motion before Sept. 11.
The recent anthrax scare will probably push e-mail use to even higher levels. It already had been enjoying a steady average annual growth rate of 40 percent for the past 20 years. The Gartner Group market research firm now predicts use of e-mail will rise by 45 percent through the end of 2002.
Unfortunately, many of those missives will consist of unsolicited commercial pitches, commonly referred to as ``spam.''
The Direct Marketing Association is telling its junk-mail-generating members to send e-mail in advance of their physical mailings, which means consumers could get socked twice.
The association's members are responsible for 90 percent of the 208 billion pieces of postal mail delivered annually. But with some firms switching from fancy mailings to postcards or e-mail and with the public's sudden fear of unsolicited mail, the association is predicting losses of up to $2 billion in sales through 2002.
The anthrax scare is giving the online-bill-payment industry ``a short-term window of opportunity'' to reel in consumers who are suddenly nervous about handling physical mail, says Jason Briggs, a senior analyst for the Yankee Group market-research firm.
Internet-based bill-paying via services such as Yahoo Bill Pay mean never having to open a paper bill, write a check, put it in an envelope and trot down to the post office. Everything is handled electronically for the consumer.
However, some services still require regular mail to be exchanged between banks and stores, slowing down the service and making it not quite as paperless as it might first appear.
Briggs has raised his 2002 usage estimates up 0.2 percentage points in light of anthrax worries. He now predicts that 9.3 percent of American households, or 9.9 million, will use online bill-paying next year. That would be up from 7 percent of all households this year.
Web-based electronic conferencing also is getting a boost as American business executives become more reluctant to fly. Such technology allows people to hold virtual meetings using live video or audio via the Internet.
Web conferencing is part of a larger electronic-conferencing industry, which includes systems that are not reliant on the Internet.
``Sept. 11 was a catalyst, as tragic as it was,'' said Jack Heath, president of Biznews24, a Webcasting firm based in Arlington, Va.
Biznews24 helped the American Forest and Paper Association use a Webcast from Washington, D.C., to substitute for its annual convention in Denver when the nation's air traffic system shut down.
Genesys Conferencing of Bedford, Mass., says it saw record volumes for all of its electronic-conferencing services -- including Web-based conferencing -- in the week ending Sept. 23.
Around the country, Web-conferencing usage doubled after Sept. 11, says Elliot Gold, president of TeleSpan Publishing. Videoconferencing saw a 50 percent spike while voice-conferencing usage rose 40 percent, says TeleSpan, which tracks all kinds of electronic conferencing.
The $3 billion electronic-conferencing market already was seeing increases before Sept. 11 as budget-conscious firms sought cheaper alternatives to business travel.
Companies driven to Webcasting out of fear may find they like it once they try it. ``These types of events put a technology on the map,'' says Rachel Thompson, a TeleSpan contributing editor.
Home use of video Webcams also is on the rise as families look for ways to keep in touch electronically instead of getting on a plane.
Even basic Web browsing patterns have shifted since the terrorist attacks.
More than half the people in the United States who went online in September visited news sites, up 40 percent from the previous month, according to the Jupiter Media Metrix ratings firm.
News-site use may be at its highest level in Web history, Jupiter says, and a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed use continues to be high.
Nearly 51 million people visited news sites in September, and nearly half of those visited CNN.com alone, pushing its traffic up 141 percent over the previous month, Jupiter says.
Web watchers like Gurak aren't convinced the changes will last. Other experts wonder if Americans may be trading real-world dangers for virtual-world perils.
Increased reliance on e-mail, for instance, brings greater exposure to computer viruses or worms such as Nimda, which snarled computer networks earlier this year, anti-virus experts note.
``Then again,'' says April Goostree of the Mcafee.com anti-virus firm, ``a computer virus isn't going to kill you.''