We've all felt the worry, even the panic, at not getting information fast enough about some horrible event. Maybe the phones are all busy or not being answered, or the cell circuits are jammed. Perhaps it's the TV and radio news that can't update you soon enough or maybe it's a slow loading web page. Paula Stern writes of her frustrations in getting information on an attack in her old neighborhood.
What happens when the event is a terrorist attack, unfolding before your eyes, in the town in which you used to live, to friends you still hold dear? The answer is, of course, terror. Blinding fear. You click on sites and when that isn’t fast enough, you flip the channels, desperate for them to tell you the ending to a story that is still in progress. But if this is a small event, not instantly dramatic enough to be reported, the television stations will hesitate to interrupt their programming until more information is available. News anchors need to be able to offer real information and too little is known. A quick news break tells you only what you already know, perhaps even less.
Another update is posted to the Web. First reports of injuries, unconfirmed. The army is there. Gunshots, flares. Helicopters. Somewhere, someone is typing into a computer, converting it to HTML and posting it on the Web. It takes only minutes; it takes too long.