Survivors

The following is a private e-mail sent to Jerry Werner, a personal friend and editor of the ITS Cooperative Deployment Network.

2 Broadway has no power, but the folks at TransCore were kind enough to let me use an office there in the interim (they're up on W35th Street).

The 4-year-old is taking it pretty hard, and next Thursday it will affect him in material ways, as a downtown school is being moved into his school and take over non-classroom space. Many of these children may have lost a parent or a home - I heard their evacuation from school was particularly horrific. So not only will our children be denied the use of science rooms, computer rooms, probably the gym, but they will be in direct contact with other children that have greater emotional problems than they already do. I'm not being selfish, just facing the facts and preparing to cope.

I can access my voice mail, but not my work Internet, and, of course, all of my files and phone directories and such are completely inaccessible to me for now. TransCore has some greater crises to attend to than my project - the entire city's VMS network went down due to telecommunications outages, for example - but the engineering department has been wonderful in encouraging all projects to continue as possible.

There are several topics that this disaster brings to the forefront of our minds - how good disaster recovery plans are, whether our emergency infrastructure is dependent on the use of public networks that are not given top priority (we are "Level 2", not "Level 1" (for the military, secret service, etc.)), design using redundant locations and alternative communication technologies - that it would be good for the ITS Forum to address. There are opportunities for Lessons Learned - both in terms of things that went and are going right, and things that we're noticing as problems - that would be useful to discuss and ponder.

We evacuated temporarily to New Jersey, and many friends and relatives have been angry at us for not contacting them. What they do not know is that telephone communications between New York and New Jersey has been horrific, our answering machine got filled up quickly, etc. The news media concentrates on the most sensational aspects, the death toll and bomb threats and missing people, but there is a much more extensive toll on the survivors, many of whom are temporary or permanent refugees, who need much better information on the state of the infrastructure, air quality, etc. - the dearth of such basic info makes citywide living even that much more difficult.

Again, I'm not being selfish, I just think identifying areas of improvement will make things better for everybody in the future, and these matters need to be discussed. Instead of repeating the timeline of the events ad nauseam, as if there's anyone who doesn't already know it by now, the media should be doing real reporting on how people can help, what the state of services is, etc. The national media has actually been a burden here - we need more local coverage that concentrates on getting information to those of us who need it, not on "informing" people not affected of stuff.

Kind of the difference between telling people in another state that there is traffic, rather than telling the people stuck in the traffic about alternative routes, expectations of travel times, etc.

The rescue workers are doing a wonderful job, but there are 8 million people around here who need better information about their safety, etc.

Thanks for letting me spout.

I asked that the following rant be deleted from the ITS Forum. This is all I have been able to recover.

I am an ITS Project Manager who self-evacuated from 2 Broadway, NYC, just about four blocks south of the twin towers, and who lives in the West Village below 14th Street, which was part of the no access zone established by the authorities. Without in any way criticizing the rescue efforts, it is my personal opinion from personal experience that both the government and the media have been doing a lousy job of addressing the needs of the survivors. With numerous broadcast and cable television resources available and 24-hour "news" being broadcast, it is shameful that 98% of the media available is devoted to mind-numbing repetition of the same images, the same stories, most, when you think about it, completely irrelevant to those of us on the ground trying to make decisions about how to proceed with our lives. From an information theory point of view, repeating the same information again and again, on multiple channels, is a complete waste of bandwidth. From a cultural standpoint, news should be new - otherwise, why go to a 24/7 news broadcast feed? In addition to the rescue efforts, the government should be obtaining and disseminating information about our weather, our air quality, our communications infrastructure, our electricity, and the nature and estimated duration of any anticipated or actual disruptions to same. And if the public sector is unable to "officially" address these issues, then the private media should get their own experts to do it for them.

I write this, of course, as a private citizen, not representing the views of my agency. As it is, I have no access to my agency e-mail, both internal and external, and have to use this personal e-mail address to communicate. The symbolic candle-lightings and prayer vigils, the "acts of war" rhetoric, the display of flags (available here at $1 a pop), the expressions of sympathy

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Last Updated: September 12, 2007