Nineteen years ago today, I was on the last PATH train into the World Trade Center from Jersey City, New Jersey.
I walked out under the hole caused by the first jet. The area was extremely crowded with people milling around trying to make calls on cell phones that refused to work.
“I don’t know what the hell you people are thinking, but we need to get out of here,” I thought. “It is not safe.”
When I got to Church and Chambers Streets, I heard a giant, sharp ripping sound behind me and turned around to see the side of the south tower blow out. I didn’t see the second jet, either.
Meanwhile, my now wife was watching the carnage unfold from mid-town, knowing where I was and thinking: “I just met this guy.”
Family members in Western New York were watching the events unfold on television, wondering if I was okay.
When I got to our offices at DM News, I emailed my wife, family and some friends to let them know I got out.
I emailed them because phones weren’t working. I immediately sat down to write a column letting readers know what was going on. That column would be sent to them by email.
In the days that followed, businesses, associations and charities mobilized by email.
The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce used email to call for businesses to volunteer resources, and then to send a long list of offers and contact information from members and non-members who responded to the call.
“I have at least seven unused desk cubicles in my office to any business that needs space,” one respondent offered.
Email also served as a major component in the business community’s efforts to drive charity relief and express condolences.
In one of the largest examples, eight email marketing companies, some of which were direct competitors, joined forces to solicit donations to charities providing relief services to victims.
NetCreations, 24/7 Media, ValueClick, Yesmail, SmartReminders, MyPoints, Sendmoreinfo, and Magellan sent emails to 40 million addresses calling for donations to nine leading charities.
“By joining forces and making our databases available to the American Red Cross and other relief organizations, we email marketers can use our lists to spread the word quickly and effectively to millions of Internet users around the world and offer them an immediate way to donate money to charities directly involved in these efforts,” said Rosalind Resnick, CEO of NetCreations.
In another grassroots example, the Direct Marketing Association on Sept. 12, 2001 emailed its membership calling for donations of products and services. More than 200 companies worldwide pledged donations within 48 hours.
“My sense is that most American are desperate to help any way they can,” said Rich Maradik, CEO of SmartDM, Inc. “Email is such a powerful medium that allows for direct contact and immediate response, allowing us as an industry to leverage millions of dollars quickly to charities involved in relief efforts.”
In the aftermath of 9/11, email was clearly the most effective person-to-person communications channel we had. It’s because of email during those days, the connection it enabled, I will forever hold email dear to my heart. May we never forget those we lost.