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In memory of …

No experience could prepare us for that day. 01/09/13 ReleVents: hed: In memory of … dek: No experience could prepare us for that day. by James Mathewson

I started to write a column on Tuesday but I found myself in the unusual position of being at a loss for words. My speechlessness goes beyond the fact that information technology is irrelevant in the face of ultimate human suffering. (What am I going to say, “Remember to back up your data”?) No. My loss for words goes much deeper. How do we deal with the events of 9/11? What words can do such events justice? Even President Bush, whose considerable oratory skills helped him go from relative unknown to President of the United States, gave a less than stirring oration in his address to the nation. Just about every other political leader in the country gave a speech. Most were short, somber, and sadly unsatisfying.

I’m afraid I will not do much better today. But writing has always been my way of finding catharsis amid hardship and suffering. And we all suffer today. Not just the victims of the attack and their families, but eyewitnesses will suffer from varying degrees of post-traumatic stress syndrome. And, in a sense, we are all eyewitnesses to the events. Who could pull themselves away from the television, even though most of what passed for news was rerun footage of the carnage and devastation?

It was more than morbid fascination that kept us all glued to the TV last night. We all wanted to find meaning in these senseless acts; to put them in some kind of perspective that made sense given our past experiences. But none of us has had experiences that even remotely relate to the horrifying images. The closest thing, I guess, would be the apocalyptic movies that never achieved popularity partly because they seemed so implausible. In short, they did not relate to any real danger–or so we thought.

Now that we have had these experiences, we only hope that our lives will not be dominated by them. What will become of the victims and their families, colleagues, and friends? How can there ever be justice for such crimes? How can we comfortably step on an airplane, or even an elevator, again? How can we stay connected enough with loved ones in times like these? How will our way of life subsist amid the rubble in the hub of the financial world? These and countless personal questions haunt us. Our lives will never be the same again, and they will only approach normalcy when we answer the many lingering questions these experiences have brought to the fore.

It will take time for the dust to settle enough for us to see the answers to such questions more clearly. Until then, life goes on. We can’t ignore our pain, but we have to find a way of doing our jobs and rebuilding our confidence in the American way of life until the smoke clears and the pain subsides. ComputerUser, which had an office across the street from the World Trade Center (all safe and accounted for, thank God), will continue to publish analysis, opinion, and advice on technology solutions for SOHO, small-, and medium-sized businesses, and IT people. This information is as needed now as it was before the atrocities were committed, if not more so.

But before I get back to doing my job, I want to extend my heart-felt thoughts and spirit-filled prayers to all who suffer through these difficult days, especially the families of those lost. Among them were some of America’s best, brightest, and bravest men and women, such as Daniel C. Lewin (1970-2001), co-founder, chief technology officer, and board member of Akamai Technologies, who was aboard the American Airlines jet that slammed into one of the towers, as a news item on our site today describes. He is a pioneer of Web caching technology, which is the kind of innovation that symbolizes the free-thinking resourcefulness on which our country is built. The survivors of this tragedy will perhaps best do justice to his memory, and those other great American thinkers who perished that day, if we redouble their efforts and amplify their legacies. In this way, though their lives were lost, their spirits and memories will live on.

James Mathewson is editor of ComputerUser magazine and

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