Winter-Spring 2002

Alive and Well, Not in Manhattan Today as Planned
by Karen Zgoda

“Alive and Well, Not in Manhattan Today as Planned.”  So read one message left at the "I'm Okay" Registry from a woman in Brooklyn.  This web site flourished in the wee hours after the September 11th attacks, briefly serving as an online survivor registry.  Created by William Shunn to let friends and family know he was safe in the wake of the attacks, news of the site quickly spread.  It had a million hits the first day, and William was unable to keep up with demand for information.  He now refers visitors to official survivor registries but leaves the "I'm Okay" site up, complete with reports from survivors, requests for information, and expressions of support, as a collection of our memories.

One could scarcely imagine that the global roots of hatred and intolerance would manifest in such a horrific loss of life and force us to watch hijacked airplanes demolish icons of American stability.  Like many on September 11th, I sat and watched events unfold in shock and disbelief.  At work, the television and radio were on in the background while co-workers rushed to call loved ones and hear the blessed "I'm okay."  A cousin sent me a frantic email as I was scheduled to travel for a conference on September 12th.  My officemates and I jumped from one jammed news web site to another.  Steve Coe posted a message to the CTC email list describing how Community Access, Inc., a CTC located three blocks from the World Trade Centers, opened its doors to help survivors as they walked by.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report titled "The Commons of the Tragedy : How the Internet was used by millions after the terror attacks to grieve, console, share news, and debate the country's response."  According to this report, online traffic dropped in the immediate aftermath of the attacks as we relied on television and the telephone for communication and news sources.  However, more than 53 million people, over half of all Internet users, sought news about the attacks online in the days that followed.  Almost three-quarters of Internet users have used email to contact friends and family, discuss events and the fate of victims, display patriotism, and share news.

In addition, nearly a third of Internet users participated in online communities and forums to read or post materials in chat rooms or bulletin boards.  Most reported that such virtual common spaces were both rational and civil.  Derek Powazek describes how grief and hope connected us online at the Design for Community: the Art of Connecting Real People in Virtual Places web site . Three teenagers in Vermont, North Carolina, and California created the "Where were you?" web site to gather thoughts and emotions of everyday people on the events on and after September 11th. chronicled personal stories from folks in NYC and Washington, D.C. Yahoo! groups currently list over 120 different online community groups in their September 11th category. As part of my volunteer work for AOL's Social Work forum, I participated in nightly chats to help folks cope.  I can't describe how difficult and wonderful it was to have some small, yet tangible, role.

In addition to enhancing our communication, the web has also become a tremendous source of follow-up resources. The Families of September 11th organization was created to promote the interests of families of victims and support public policies that improve prevention of and response to terrorism.  The National Association of Social Workers Response to the Terrorist Attacks page and the National Center for PTSD, Disaster Mental Health: Dealing with the Aftereffects of Terrorism page have been very helpful.  The New York Times has a wonderful memorial web site titled “Portraits of Grief .”  Tracking down Federal government resources is less cumbersome on the FirstGov: America Responds to Terrorism page.

In the spirit of wanting to help citizens be on alert for scams and false information, the Federal Trade Commission has published "Consumer Alert: Helping Victims of Terrorist Attacks, Your Guide to Giving Wisely." They have also released Tips for Consumers Eyeing Online Anthrax Cures. The Urban Legends Reference Pages has assembled, as always, the definitive guide to unfounded rumors related to September 11th.

Ben Cain and I have collected youth activity, mental health, and communication resources in response to the September 11th tragedy for CTCNet members and others. Our CTC communities have historically addressed issues of cultural awareness and tolerance and will continue to address them beyond this event.  We are all in a position to benefit from increased exploration and education on these issues.

Our deepest sympathies go out to all those affected by the September 11th tragedies.  Be safe, and be well.

Karen Zgoda is a Project Coordinator with CTCNet and VISTA Support Specialist with the CTC VISTA Project.

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