Thursday, September 13, 2001

Cell phones

Connecting during a crisis

        I picture my own, dear mother sitting in front of the television, watching this war alone.

        My father has been dead for a half-dozen years, and she has made the best of it. Missing him. But living these years of her life exactly as she pleases, programming the remote to skip the ESPN channels. No more football and basketball and baseball. Mom likes the news. A lot of news.

        Usually, she surfs. But on Tuesday, she stuck with her favorites, Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. Smart and, she thinks, first with interviews of the “people who know what's going on.” Although — and this is a minor quibble — she hates Katie's shoes.

Reaching out

        I suppose as long as you're sitting there by yourself, you'd want to be electronically connected with those who are familiar and likeable. Actually, I think you might want to be connected with those you love.

        My brother, Steve, who even today would just as soon pinch me as look at me, called Tuesday with some trumped-up excuse. “You coming home this weekend?” (Home being where our mother is.) I said I didn't think so, and he hung up.

        But I think first he said he loves me. I could be mistaken. It was kind of muffled and his cell phone was breaking up. His cell phone.

        They are ubiquitous in this disaster. As businessmen walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, stripped to the waist, breathing through their white shirts, they passed cell phones back and forth. Some worked. Some didn't.

        Libby Korosec, director of communications for Cincinnati Bell, says it might have been from congestion, lots of people trying to use them at once. Some towers were destroyed. And, “even leaves on a tree can affect transmission.”

        Thousands of calls were lost Tuesday, according to Verizon, the company that serves New York City. Some Internet sites misfired as well. But an awful lot of cell phones worked, even in places you might expect they wouldn't.

Last goodbye

        New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke by cell phone with the fire department's chaplain as he was rushing to the World Trade Center just after the first tower was hit. “I asked him to pray for us.” The cleric now is believed dead.

        The mayor told reporters that two other rescuers were found after they called 911 on their cell phones. Another man, trapped in the rubble, used his cell phone to plead for help. “He gave specific directions,” said a 911 operator.

        United Airlines CEO Jim Goodwin recorded a phone message for his employees, asking them to “comfort and support” each other. The company owned two of the four jets involved in the attack. Mr. Goodwin told employees that “we can be sure that we are not alone.”

        Flight attendant CeeCee Lyles called her husband. “She let him know how much she loved him and the boys,” said her aunt.

        Businessman Thomas Burnett, 38, called his wife from the same United jet, which crashed south of Pittsburgh. The family's priest told the San Francisco Chronicle that the father of three said, “I love you, honey.” And the call ended.

        If you had that last call to make, what would you say? Who would you say it to? Your partner? Your spouse? Your kids? Your mom?

        Today, the lines are open.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


At a glance
Attacks are topic No. 1 in classrooms
Body recovery part of work of NYC crews
Constituents' emotions unmitigated
Different faiths, all drawn to pray
Family clings to details of missing woman's fate
Jews seek normalcy
Local firefighters on task force joining rescue efforts
Muslims urged to give aid
No date, time for nation's air travel to resume
Outpouring of donations keeps blood supply steady
Relatives wait for word, pray
Stranded travelers find help in Florence
Tightened air security will be norm
Travelers wait, pray in deserted airport
Work resumes, but life is different
Wright-Patterson medical personnel join effort
- PULFER: Cell phones
RADEL: Tristate sprouts flying flags
Reports bring sweep of river
Court upholds stay for Byrd
Luken suggests raises for cadets
Luken unused to second place
Primary results
Council halts bid for road-extension vote
Superintendent's contract extended
Tristate A.M. Report
Woman shot outside school as it lets out