Tragedy and Triumph

At a time like this, it’s hard to work up passion for online advertising. In fact, it’s hard think of anything except the horror and the tragedy that struck, and is still pummeling, our city.

On Tuesday morning, when I arrived to work at our 37th-floor office in midtown Manhattan, the first tower already had a gaping hole. Then the other one was hit. Then they fell. After that, with the world awash in insecurity, all we could do was try to find our way home.

The enormity still seems incomprehensible. The only thing one can do is reach out to others — family, colleagues, friends — and try to move forward. Life must go on.

In the days immediately following the attack, many in the online advertising community rallied to do whatever they could to support the effort of putting the city, and the country, back together. Indeed, the Net was in many ways the center of crucial sharing of information and resources. It’s something we can be proud of.

Donations online. By Monday morning, Amazon.com had raised $5.8 million for the Red Cross. PayPal, the online payment service, had raised $1.2 million. And Yahoo had collected close to $20 million for various charities. That’s a lot of money going toward an important effort.

Businesses helping businesses. The NY-based Silicon Alley Reporter organized an effort to help dislocated businesses. As of Friday, 60 companies were offering free office space for a month for any business that needed it. Some were offering up to 250 desks.

Ad inventory. Many sites pulled down product advertising and put up fundraising ads. The Internet was such an efficient channel for fundraising that the Red Cross was soliciting donations exclusively through partnerships with Web networks and sites.

Email. The September 11 disaster reminded us that the most powerful Internet channel is email. With phones in the city down, people used email to check on friends and reach out and reassure people all over the world that they were safe. And email was an important channel for organizing community and nationwide vigils and demonstrations of pride.

Many thousands here have lost family, friends, and loved ones. It will be a long time before the city recovers. And, in the face of such a brutal tragedy, it will be a long time before people in the industry will be able to work up a passion for the business that seemed so important just a short time ago.

Editor’s note: For more on the impact of the September 11 attack, check the special section of internet.com’s E-Commerce/Marketing Channel, The Trade Center Disaster: Industry Response.

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