Look Back: Letters from 9-11

By: Steve Burger
Director of New Media

The September 2001 attacks were the first real test of the Internet as a means of communication during a signifcant national disaster.

On that day, the current version of 14wfie.com was barely a year old. The e-mails below were sent on September 11, with the times noted.

Our first breaking news e-mail was sent at 8:15am Central Time:

"At least one large jet aircraft has crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Both towers are on fire."

A follow up was sent about 15 minutes later, and then this note at 8:58am Central Time:

"There is word now that a bomb has exploded at the Pentagon in Washington, D.c. Live pictures show billowing smoke from the building. This is in addition to the plane crashes at the World Trade Center in New York this morning."

Then at 9:43am Central Time:

"Update....Both towers of the World Trade Center have collapsed as the result of terrorist attacks on them this morning. There has also been a plane crash at the U.S. Pentagon, causing much damage. There is also an unconfirmed report of a car bomb exploding just minutes ago in front of the State Department in Washington. President Bush and top cabinet officials are enroute back to Washington."

Much has changed at 14wfie.com and the Internet as a whole in the past five years to make sure we can deliver the news no matter the circumstances. But the Internet backbone in 2001 was not ready for the crushing load of traffic prompted by the attacks. Here's an e-mail sent at 11:11am by our website host, World Now, located in New York City:

"Dear Affiliates,
Due to the tragic event at the World Trade Center, we are continuing to
"Scrape" your site in order to more efficiently service your viewers. This
is a practice used by CNN, MSNBC and other big media sites during
or other times of peak traffic. Furthermore, we are "throttling" the
firewall to control the flow of traffic spikes. This may cause some
and or misconnects as spikes hit. You site is still serving though, please
be patient"

But it wasn't enough. The 14wfie.com web site was unavailable for nearly two hours. However, e-mail was still functioning. We decided to use our Personal Forecast service to get you the information until conditions improved. This e-mail was sent at 11:53am Central Time:

"Until further notice, this space is being utilized for news and information relating to the national emergency.

Tune to 14 WFIE for continuing coverage and go to 14wfie.com for updates.

Here is some local information:

Fairview Baptist Church 507 W. Byers in Owensboro will have prayer services at noon and 7pm Tuesday.

Prayer service is set for St. John's East at 7pm at 7000 Lincoln Avenue.

Prayer Service at Lewis Lane Baptist church, 2600 Lewis Lane in Owensboro is holding a community wide prayer service at 1:30pm.

Greater Light Pentacostal Church 2860 N. Main in Madisonville, Ky will hold a prayer service form 12-1.

St. Joseph Church in Dale is holding a mass at 6:30pm.

Christian Fellowship Church 4100 Millersburg Road, Evansville will hold a community prayer service at 7pm.

 WFIE Channel 14 NEWS"

Eventually, things did improve, and 14wfie.com was back online. That prompted this e-mail from World Now at 6:19pm that day.

"While today has been and extremely tragic day in American history, we
believe we have provided leading national coverage of this event. To that
end, we will be continuing our coverage as updates are available. We do
believe the height of the Internet traffic has subsided for the evening and
our sites will remain stable."

Because of 9-11, systems are now in place to ensure the uninterrupted flow of information across all of our new media platforms in the event of a signifcant national emergncy. We hope we never have to test it, but if it happens, we'll be ready.