18 , 2001 |
Last week, a series of well-organized terrorist attacks hit
the northeastern United States. From chaotic streets and airplane
bathrooms, across America and the Arabic world, nearly all parties
involved in the tragedy used mobile phones to distribute news and
reach out from extraordinary situations. Many of these conversations
took place between the living and the very nearly dead, making the
mobile phone an unanticipated means of sharing intimate farewells.
Passengers on the hijacked United Airlines flight 93 called their
families from the air using their mobile phones. From those calls
they learned of the first commercial airliner attacks on New York.
Some said they knew they were likely to die, and were resolved to
do something about the terrorists. This plane later crashed into
the countryside outside of Pittsburgh. It seems that citizens here
saved many lives and another terrorist target in Washington DC because
they were able to get mobile phone reports from the ground. This
stands as a ringing commendation for mobile phones, but those families
will have frantic embattled conversations to remember as the final
moments of their loved ones.
After the first airplane hit one of the World Trade Center towers,
the gasoline from the airplane immediately heated the skyscraper
to untenable temperatures. People trapped in the top floors called
their loved ones for a farewell. Unsettling as well as staggeringly
sad, the chance to hear a final word from a nearly departed spouse
or family-member is a wrenching part of this mobile-phone age. Mobile
phones turned these people into intimate news correspondents, reporting
from the scene of their encroaching death.
weren't the only folks using mobile phones to stay in touch during
these events mobile phone networks lit up in Arabic countries
as well. Some people associated with the terrorists received a text
and graphics confirmation message after the attacks. The message
read "It hit and did not miss" in Arabic with a picture of an airplane
hitting a building. The community news reports from the mobile phones
of the people in-part responsible presents a grim contrast to the
transcribed last conversations of dying people in the World Trade
This tragedy marked the advent of the mobile-media age where anyone
can be a reporter, even on the circumstances of their own demise.
The use of wireless devices to share a dying gasp is among the most
unsettling and intimate uses of technology we humans have yet witnessed.
The results of being in touch all the time are shocking and may
be more than most people might ask for. One family would say only
that their phone call from a hostage relative finished when they
heard the end of the story. Despite these grisly experiences, people
who have heard from their now-deceased loved ones likely feel slightly
more comforted than those who heard nothing.
Justin Hall is a globe-trotting freelance writer. You can follow
his adventures on links.net.