Recovery for People, Systems Will Come

The terror attacks of last week filled us all with horror, grief and agony that the promises of a new millennium can be dashed by crazed extremists.

The terror attacks of last week filled us all with horror, grief and agony that the promises of a new millennium can be dashed by crazed extremists. Our heartfelt sympathies are extended to those friends, relatives and fellow industry workers struck by this tragedy. The World Trade Center in addition to being a financial center was a technology hub; the Pentagon houses one of the worlds largest information networks; and those doomed cross-country flights were heavily utilized by technology executives. The loss has touched us all.

As the grim search through the wreckage continues, the business of rebuilding companies crushed in the rubble has begun. A terrorist attack on this unprecedented scale strains all systems: human, technology and business. We devote the front section of this weeks issue to that rebuilding.

The human agony and inspired heroism is captured by John Dodges story of one consultants harrowing escape from the World Trade Center. This story of a 90-minute trek through the growing conflagration reaches to the heart of the agony behind those televised scenes of destruction.

Even as the rescue workers continued to search for survivors in New York and Washington, businesses were facing the daunting task of rebuilding their operations. The importance of resuming operations was less a financial matter than a reflection of the need to show that despite the terror bombing, the companies affected would not be bowed. The value of disaster recovery projects was much in evidence as remote systems were able to take over for those destroyed. The Web and e-mail became essential tools for contact and once again showed the essential wisdom of the early developers of the Internet. Getting these systems going in many cases without the people who developed and maintained them emphasizes the ongoing tragedy but is a necessary step.

Despite the advances in technology and security, the terrorists were still able to board the planes from which they carried out their suicide missions. Has an overreliance on technology blinded the United States from the terrorist reality? Are the security agencies awash in data but unable to discover the patterns and communications that could provide early warning to terrorist attacks? Technology Editor Peter Coffee looks at these questions. The best security systems are a mix of intelligent people; well-thought-out processes; and technology that helps, but does not attempt to replace, human judgment. Creating a secure society while respecting individual freedom is a daunting challenge.

The terrorist attack on the heart of America was a staggering blow, but one from which the country will recover. How that recovery will take shape in terms of people overcoming their grief, business systems being restarted and security networks being developed to make sure that a similar tragedy is never again visited on the country is the theme of this weeks issue.