Just as every American will forever remember where he or she was on September 11, 2001, the day may also be remembered as the greatest test for technology and the Internet.
Did the Internet and telecommunication play a major role in the horrific events that unfolded on Tuesday? Indeed they did, and in some cases technology provided the last moments of intimacy between loved ones.
From the man on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center who sent an e-mail to his wife seconds before the building was hit by a hijacked airliner, to the Washington, D.C. journalist who used her cell phone to call her husband as one of the hijackings was occurring, technology provided links for desperate and doomed Americans.
The People’s Channel
It matters not only for the purpose it served in those moments, but also because it signifies the critical importance of technology now in mainstream American life. Had Tuesday’s events happened even a decade ago, technology would most likely have played its role in intelligence gathering and law enforcement, but not within the public arena.
Those few Americans who had the opportunity on Tuesday to receive goodbyes from their loved ones via instant messaging, cell phone or e-mail will always be grateful for the last moments that only contemporary Internet and telecommunications technology could provide.
Minute By Minute
Meanwhile, in a nation that lost its last shred of innocence on September 11th, citizens turned in record numbers to the Internet to connect with other stricken Americans.
On CitizenX.com, one user posted this message: “Donate Blood Now Please! Blood = Life.” On another bulletin board, a desperate daughter posted: “My mother, [name], works in the North Tower. Please help me find her. I can e-mail her picture to you. Please help us.”
Messages such as these flooded the Internet, bringing the world community closer, allowing human beings to find comfort among themselves and encouraging the use of the medium as something that can be depended on, even in the worst moments in our nation’s history.
That hundreds of thousands of American citizens turned to the Internet as a primary source of news and information content speaks volumes about the cultural shift toward the medium.
Tuesday’s events proved that we Americans need the Internet. For those who need proof, consider that CNN.com reports 9 million hits per hour on Tuesday, as compared with its usual 11 million hits per day.
Many content and information sites hit their maximum capacity and had to do away with heavy graphics in their effort to keep the traffic flowing.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) immediately invited private citizens to report any information they might have about the attacks to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center Web site, signifying the faith that the country’s most powerful law enforcement agency places in the Internet as a possible avenue to solve these crimes.
Times of Need
This week, the Internet may not be as much about buying and selling, but it is certainly about incorporating technology into the daily lives of American citizens.
For those of us who deal in e-commerce, if there can be anything promising or encouraging from the devastating events of September 11th, it is the reassurance that Americans are turning to the Internet in times of need, much as they began doing with the telephone many years ago.
While at this moment the economy is not the national priority, the increasing use of the Internet and e-commerce may ultimately help boost the economy, and reassure our embattled citizens that technology is not so mysterious after all.
Technology is simply about people reaching people.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.