State Officials Use Internet in Crisis
By Jason White, Assistant Staff Writer
"Today's horrific incident at the World Trade Center which appears to be part of a coordinated terrorist attack is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions and a crime against all Americans and all decent people around the world," said New York Gov. George Pataki in a statement posted on the state Web site just after Tuesday's attack.
Since then, the site has been updated repeatedly with emergency referral information and contact numbers and the latest news detailing New York's response.
As yesterdays' events unfolded, tens of millions of Americans logged-on to the Internet to communicate with loved-ones, find the latest news and information on the attacks, and vent their feelings, fears and frustrations in online chat rooms.
Designed during the Cold War with global conflict in mind, the Internet was slowed by yesterday's heavy traffic, but it nevertheless proved itself to be an efficient and immediate means for government officials to deliver much-needed messages to worried and confused Americans.
Many state Web sites continue to be updated with the latest state and national responses to the attacks. Governors are using them to issue formal statements of condolence and resolve. State agencies are being ordered to close or remain open, depending on location. Residents are being urged to fly flags at half-staff. Blood donors are being directed to the nearest hospital. Churches are being asked to keep their doors open for those who would like to pray.
An "alert!" announcement headlines New Jersey's Web site. Underneath, bulleted messages list an urgent appeal for blood, the state's actions as a result of the events in New York City and a link to emergency-related news. The bottom of the page contains further news headlines.
Michigan's Web site spotlights a release saying the state's gasoline supplies remain stable and that motorists should continue with their normal buying patterns. Gasoline prices throughout the Midwest surged yesterday due to uncertainty over the effects of the attacks on oil and gas supplies.
Kentucky's home page has a highlighted link to the state Division of Emergency Management for information on the attacks as it relates to state government and operations.
Virginia's Web site links to a media and emergency information room with an exhaustive list of news releases and links to relief organizations. At the top is a disclaimer that says, "Due to the current crisis in New York and Washington, D.C., Internet connectivity across the country is heavily taxed, so many web sites, especially news sites, may be difficult to reach."
Washington's home page contains a statement from Gov. Gary Locke, saying state government will continue operating and that state employees' safety was being ensured. He ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff.
Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns says in a news release on his site that the Nebraska National Guard and the Nebraska State Patrol are on a heightened state of alert. He also says in the Tuesday release that he was canceling travel plans and returning to Lincoln.
South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow posted an advisory on his site about the state's response to the attacks. It says the World War II Memorial parade and dedication set for Saturday remains on schedule. The governor also asks that religious institutions across South Dakota toll their bells at noon central time on Wednesday as "a signal of hope and in remembrance of all those who have lost their lives and in support of those who are suffering" as a result of the terrorist attacks.