Users turn to Web for Sept. 11 mourning, healing

From the darkened homepages of Yahoo Inc. and Lycos.com to buzzing message boards and memorials, the Web transformed itself into a medium of mourning and remembrance Wednesday, in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Much like on Sept. 11 of last year, and the days that followed, when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon sliced through the routine of daily life, sending the U.S. into a tailspin and causing chaos in communication systems, the public again turned to the Web for information and support.

Traffic-heavy Web portals pinned ribbons and flags to their sites Wednesday, adjusting the colors to somber hues, while even e-commerce giants like Amazon.com Inc. put their salesmanship aside, turning their homepages into a place for reflection. Amazon's homepage featured thoughts and drawings excerpted from the book "Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001," while the words "Freedom," "Courage," "Strength" and "Unity" flashed overhead.

Online auction site eBay Inc. also paused its commerce gavel, placing a U.S. flag atop its place and offering a Sept. 11 community discussion board. Almost 400 discussions were posted on the board before 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday, ranging from poems and patriotic sentiments, to reflections on America.

Message boards across the Web offered people a place for reflection and healing, featuring often poignant firsthand accounts of how people reacted to the attacks.

"I sat and cried in front of the TV for three weeks. I was worried about more attacks, I felt terrible for the innocent victims, I was afraid that this would mean the end to many of our freedoms," one person wrote.

But other messages centered on hope and the unity expressed in the aftermath of the attacks.

"It's good to see everyone from all parts of the world sharing their thoughts about 9-11-01 with each other, people who care and remember," said another message.

Meanwhile, major news sites such as MSNBC.com and CNN.com took the opportunity to splash major wrap-ups of the news, often offering archives and information on local memorial events.

The news stories added to the wealth of Sept. 11 information already available on the Web, such as the archive at http://september11archive.org, featuring news, analysis, and links to other Web sites dedicated to the attacks. Sept. 11 pictures also abound, with another archive created just for images related to the attacks at http://911digitalarchive.org.

But beside turning to the Web for mourning and remembrance, users were no doubt using it to monitor any possible breaking terrorism news Wednesday, as the U.S. government put the country on "high alert," citing specific terrorist threats.

For the first time since the government launched the color-coded system last March, the alert had moved from code yellow, or "significant risk" to the code orange "high" danger alert.

And while this development may make the public even more edgy, at least they do not have to feel alone, with so much support available on the Web.

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Scarlet Pruitt

Computerworld
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