I have no special knowledge of international affairs, nor do I pretend to speak from such a position. But as I've sat, shocked, sick, and numb, over the last few days, I believe that some acknowledgment in TidBITS of last Tuesday's horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is appropriate.
My reasoning is simple. Any community - even to the level of our global society - is only as strong as the individual ties that we build and maintain every day. The enormity of the loss of life in the attack overwhelmed me - I simply cannot (nor do I wish to) comprehend what it means for thousands of people to have died in this single, fatally intentional, and highly publicized event. But my thoughts went immediately to those members of my online communities - TidBITS, TidBITS Talk, XNSORG - who I know live, work, or were travelling in New York. Within a day or so, I'd heard from those with whom I'm closest, and all of them are fine.
And yet, there are members of our community who were injured or killed, and who had friends, colleagues, and relatives injured or killed. For them we can but mourn and work to create a free and open society that has no place for the practice of terrorism. We cannot live in fear, we cannot turn our lives inward, and we must resist the temptation to subject ourselves to a self-imposed police state in the name of increased safety.
Tonya commented to me recently that the United States is an ongoing experiment in freedom, and she's absolutely correct. Many of our past and present conflicts - ranging from the Civil War to abortion rights arguments - center around questions of freedom because there are no easy answers. Freedom is never without risk, and although those risks come in many forms, the threat that lurks behind all of them is the loss of freedom itself. That, and that alone, would end the experiment, and end it in the worst possible way.
Help Out -- In the immediate situation, there are numerous relief efforts and organizations who need financial support. I encourage you to aid their efforts - you can find any number of them easily on the Internet, although it's worth exercising care since scams have appeared that purport to solicit donations for relief organizations. A few suggestions from the Coalition Against Unsolicited Email (CAUCE) and the SpamCon Foundation:
If you don't know the organization or person who sent the request, it's probably fraudulent.
Virtually no bona-fide relief agencies request funds by sending email to people who are not already involved in that agency. Solicitations made in this way may also violate laws in the United States and Europe.
If you click a link to donate, examine the page's URL shown in your browser. If the domain name of the URL is hidden, unfamiliar, or doesn't match the link's text, the request is probably fraudulent.
Verify the solicitor's identity through another medium (such as the telephone) before giving money. Spammers frequently forge the identities and imitate the styles of well-known entities to gain credibility.
A safe donation is to the National Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross. You can donate directly via credit card on the Red Cross site, plus Amazon and PayPal both set up simpler methods of donating when the Red Cross site was overwhelmed after the attack. Both companies are waiving their normal fees so 100 percent of donations go to the relief effort; as of this writing, more than 200,000 individuals and organizations (including TidBITS) have donated more than $7.3 million. Donations to the Red Cross can be made by telephone at 800-HELP-NOW.
Information about blood donations to the Red Cross can be found at 800-GIVE-LIFE. Although the immediate need for blood has passed, the nation's blood supply does need constant replenishment due to the 42-day lifespan of donated blood, so consider giving blood in a few weeks and again on a regular schedule.
Companies Helping Out -- A number of Macintosh-related companies have temporarily pledged proceeds from their sales to help the relief efforts, and for that they deserve praise. Companies donating in this fashion include Aladdin ($1 per online sale through 30-Sep-01), Intelli Innovations ($10 per purchase through 21-Sep-01), MCF Software (100 percent of ListSTAR sales and 50 percent of MacRadius sales through 30-Sep-01), PagePlanet Software (50 percent of gross sales through 30-Sep-01), RadGad (all profits through 30-Sep-01), Small Dog Electronics (matching charitable gifts and donating $10 per order during the week of 17-Sep-01), and Thursby Systems (all online sales through 21-Sep-01).
If you know of other companies offering similar pledges, please send a note to TidBITS Talk, where I'll expand the list.
Move Forward -- All of this said, I do not wish TidBITS to be a forum for coverage of this tragic event, nor do I wish TidBITS Talk to host discussions of the attack that fall outside the TidBITS Talk charter. Beside the fact that there are far more appropriate forums for both coverage and discussion, the process of healing must include a return to normalcy while at the same time acknowledging the magnitude of what has happened. Although I'm sure the level of shock varies widely, the electronic connections we've formed with one another ensure that repercussions from the attack affect all of us. And from that point, we must all continue to move forward together, for that is what life is all about.