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CQ Magazine


"Too Few Volunteers, Too Much Emergency”


(CQ The Radio Amateur's Journal, November 2001)


"Too Few Volunteers, Too Much Emergency”

As I begin this month's editorial, it is Tuesday, September 11th, another "day which will live in infamy" in American history. From outside my house in New Jersey, I can see the smoke rising from what used to be the World Trade Center. Behind me, my 2-meter radio is on, tuned to the main New York City emergency net. All day, I’ve been listening to and watching the news of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, plus the plane crash outside Pittsburgh. I've seen the videotapes dozens of times. And I still can't believe it really happened.

But although I am shocked, angered and saddened by the day's events, my faith in human nature and in the unifying power of amateur radio cannot be stronger. Through the day, I listened to a half-dozen emergency nets gearing up for possible assignments, hearing dozens of hams volunteering to do "whatever you need, wherever you need it." And the first piece of e-mail I received about the attack came from an amateur in Turkey -- Berkin, TA3J, "I am very sorry to hear about the terrorist attack in USA," it read. "I can't find words to explain my feelings. It is unbelievable..."


Yet his message served as an immediate reminder that we must be careful not to blame entire groups of people for the actions of a fanatical few. As I write this, it is not yet certain who bears the responsibility for planning and carrying out these attacks, but it is widely suspected that they originated in the Middle East. And here comes this message, expressing the same feelings that many of us are experiencing -- the only message of its type today -- coming from the Middle East, reminding us indirectly that most people in most countries want to live in peace and condemn such acts of cowardice.  We hams have the opportunity to hear that firsthand. Ham radio breaks down barriers between us, and allows people from different parts of the world to relate one-on-one, human-to-human, without the interference of politics or propaganda. This is the power of amateur radio.


Final surreal image of the day: On the way home, coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel, we looked back toward lower Manhattan. Image: Darkened buildings surrounding the highly-illuminated plume of smoke that seems as if it will be a permanent new part of New York’s radically rearranged skyline. They are images that will always be with me.

Rich, W2VU