September 11th 2001

By Stephen Saunders, Cofounder, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

NEW YORK - No one at Light Reading has been able to find words to describe the horror of what happened in this city on Tuesday. Given that words are all we have to offer, this has left us feeling frustrated and helpless.

I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Like millions of others, I watched in stunned amazement as the first pictures were broadcast of the World Trade Center under attack. That shock turned to anger as the second plane struck, and I realized that America itself was under attack.

Light Reading's office on Leonard Street is less than half a mile from the World Trade Center. I caught a subway downtown, wanting to be with our staff. I assumed the fires in the towers would be put out. I assumed the towers would remain standing.

At 9:50 a.m. I came up out of the subway at 14th Street and started walking south. By the time I reached Canal Street I was part of a frightened crowd. I could see and smell the smoke. When the sirens weren't screaming it was eerily quiet, except for the indescribable sound that onlookers made when a body fell from the towers -- or someone jumped from the burning buildings.

I was three blocks from Leonard Street when the first tower collapsed. The ground shook. People screamed. Some stood transfixed. Others ran in panic.

I ran as well, racing to our office. We did a quick head count. Only one person was missing, and she called in later that day.

I later learned that one of our employees was coming out of the Chambers Street subway stop, five blocks from the World Trade Center, when the first hijacked plane hit. She saw and heard things in the next half hour that I wish no one ever had to suffer through.

At about 11 a.m. we evacuated the office. (It's closed and will stay closed for some time. The best way to reach us is via e-mail.) I borrowed a bike from a coworker and rode up the West Side highway. Ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars roared past. Some were covered in debris and dust; others had broken windows.

At roughly 2 p.m. I held a phone meeting with executive editor Scott Raynovich, We decided the right thing to do-the only thing to do-was to continue posting stories to our Web site. Yes, some of these were about the tragedy and its impact on optical networking companies. But we also decided to cover regular industry news.

This was a difficult decision. It seemed almost obscene to write articles about optical networking. But we believe that by continuing to do our jobs we fought back, in the only way we could, against the terrorists who had already inflicted so much pain on the citizens of this city and of the United States.

There are no bright points, no positives, to emerge this week. Still, all of us at Light Reading were touched by the messages we received from optical networking companies all around the world checking to see that we are OK. They've made me realize that the people who work in optical networking are not simply part of an industry. We are a community.

Our message boards are another example of this community. Almost all the postings since Tuesday relate to the tragedy. They have demonstrated the best and worst about people. Obviously, we don't endorse the hatred and the rage in some of these messages. But we continue to believe that people must have a chance to discuss how they feel.

And some messages simply must be read:


What truly amazes me is that people have chosen to come to Light Reading to talk to one another in this time of tragedy. It stands as the thing I am most proud of since founding Light Reading with Peter Heywood last year.

Where do we go from here? What can we do?

I believe the answer lies in this same community. As individuals we are powerless. But standing together we can make a difference.

It is apparent that one of the biggest risks we face when the financial markets here reopen is a massive sell-off of stocks, toppling the economy into a recession. One way our community can pay tribute to the thousands who died in Tuesday's tragedy is to make sure that this doesn't happen.

That's why we are asking all the members of our community to hold their positions in optical networking companies, rather than selling them off at the earliest opportunity.

The Light Reading staff is not permitted to own optical networking stocks. Our company, however, will invest $10,000 in optical networking stocks on the morning that the markets reopen. This portfolio will be held until the crisis is past. It will then be sold off and the proceeds donated to one of the funds for families who have lost loved ones in this disaster.

The optical networking industry is already teetering on the brink of a massive shakeout that could delay for years the goal of creating a new communications infrastructure for a new economy. One more push in the wrong direction and a lot of dreams will be dashed -not just the dreams of entrepreneurs hoping to get rich quick but also the dream of harnessing the Internet to give people around the world a better life.

Next Saturday, September 22, my fiancée Dawn and I are supposed to get married. The ceremony is supposed to take place at Saint Peter's, which is one block from the World Trade Center. We are still trying to reach Father Kevin Madigan, our priest, and fear for his safety.

We have made the decision to try to go ahead with our wedding, though we now expect as many tears on that day as smiles. We believe this is the right thing to do, for the same reasons that Light Reading will continue to offer uninterrupted coverage of our community. Life must go on. Business must continue. Working to get America back to normal is the greatest act of defiance every ordinary person can undertake. In this way we will prove those who have attacked us wrong.

The staff of Light Reading offers its condolences and deepest sympathy to all those whose lives have been touched by these tragic events.

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