A Decade after 9/11: The anniversary of a Modern Disaster

348px-September_11_Photo_Montage.jpg I remember driving across Indiana with my parents early on that September morning, on a trip to visit a prospective small engineering college where to commence my undergraduate studies. My father had a program playing on the radio, as he usually did, and I was half-reading, half-listening to the droning news in the background. I remember a strange moment when concerned voices broke my concentration away from my books, and I thought the radio announcers must be playing a mean joke on the American public… what I was hearing just couldn’t be real. Was it? As we continued driving, eyes widened in shock, planes started descending in droves, or so it seemed, landing at a local airport not a few miles away from our driving route. It wasn’t long before we turned around and speedily began our 1hr drive back home. Something just wasn’t right. My dad apologized that we wouldn’t be making it to the college recruiting day at my prospective school, but our minds, hearts, and empty-feeling stomachs were focused elsewhere.

September 11th, 2001 was a very dark day. It was a day of disaster. It was a day of crisis for our people, our government, our crisis responders, our media, our nation, our international communities, and many other organizations and institutions.

9/11 as a disaster:

A natural or man-made hazard that has come to fruition, resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment. (Wikipedia)

A calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, as a flood, airplane crash, or business failure. (Dictionary.com)

An occurrence causing widespread destruction and distress; a catastrophe (Answers.com)

9/11 as a crisis:

A major occurance with negative outcomes affecting the organization, company, or industry, as well as its publics, products, services, or good name. (Fearn-Banks, Routledge 2011)

social media.jpg In disasters and crises, communication is paramount. Communication on multiple levels is vital in order to transmit information, to warn, to prepare, to contain the crisis, to prevent further damage, to comfort, and even to recover and learn from the crisis. Disasters and crises demand resilience of the social systems affected: the capacity of individuals, of an organization, a city, a society, a government, or a nation to proactively adapt and to and recover from disturbances. If America and her people fail to be resilient, disasters such as 9/11 could lead to a crippling lack of response and action, which are paramount to preserving life, sanity, and social system function.

This blog post is the beginning of a detailed look at the media and news coverage surrounding the 9/11 attacks, both on and following the fateful day in 2001, and now, 10 years later and on the Anniversary of that dark day.

How will media coverage 10 years later look and feel as compared to the original media coverage of the 9/11 incident? How will it be different, and/or how will it be the same?

Have we fully recovered from that dark day in history? Does our media coverage and conversation on 9/11 reflect our state and extent of recovery?

Will the internet and social media be more prevalent sources of information on the 9/11 crisis this September of 2011, in comparison what they were during the actual disaster?

Certainly, while Americans still look most frequently to Television and Radio for disaster news and media coverage, many more Americans today are looking to the internet and social media: Facebook and Twitter for example. When disaster strikes, mobile phone outages and even SMS text delays due to overcrowding mean that many people turn to the internet and social media sites to reconnect with family and friends, as well as to receive a flow of updates from local and national organizations. The age of instantaneous news and of social media may be reflected this September 11th, 2011, as many of us turn to the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the blogosphere to commemorate the lives lost exactly one decade ago.

@FromTheLabBench welcomes you to participate in this important conversation, through comments on this blog and discussions on Twitter. Feel free to share your thoughts, media uses during the 9/11 10-year anniversary, and any 9/11 media coverage you come across from either then (September 2001) or now (September 2011).

1) Text Messages Aren’t Enough When Natural Disasters Strike, by Neal Ungerleider, Aug 25, 2011

2) Red Cross Social Media in Disasters and Emergencies Survey