"I'm Okay" Registry : Support Official Sites
I wrote the following essay and posted it to the main page of the "I'm Okay" Registry on Friday, September 14th, after receiving many, many kind offers of money, servers, and bandwidth from those determined somehow to resurrect the site. This was my answer.
Bill Shunn asks: "Please Support Official Information Sites"

As the days since the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters have passed, I've received email after email from people across America and all around the world, expressing their thanks for the Check-In Registry and their support of all those here who have lost loved ones and who grieve. In New York City, that means nearly all of us. I appreciate those letters and hope to share them online sometime soon.

More distressing, however, have been the letters from the friends and families of those who are still missing. Many of them are asking me for information about their loved ones. Some have found the names of their missing family members on my list of reported survivors, and they want to know how the names got there. Some of them have been eager, some angry. They're looking for any reason to continue to hope. I've seen many of them on television, and so have you, and their expressions of how they found false hope on the Internet have broken my heart. I've felt responsible for that, and I sincerely apologize to the families affected.

There was a time when grassroots survivor registries like this one were a good idea. That time was on the first day of the tragedy, when news reports were confusing and people needed a quick way to circumvent the overburdened telephone systems and get word to loved ones around the country that they were okay. I wanted to know that my friends were okay. That's why I built this site as quickly as I did—as quickly as I could. The many messages I've received from people who successfully found word of their loved ones here that day only underscore the fact that it was indeed an important service.

But the slapdash nature of the site invited a great number of inaccurate postings, as well—some from people who in their haste did not read the instructions thoroughly and entered the names of people they were looking for rather than people they knew were okay. I tried to remedy this throughout the afternoon and evening Tuesday, and to find a way to exclude the many hateful messages that were beginning to appear, but I was hampered by the great flood of hits to the site. I was barely able to make any updates to my own service. By midnight the site was nearly useless, and I was forced by circumstances to close it to further posts.

Increasingly I am receiving email from companies and individuals who want to provide me with extra servers and bandwidth to help reinstate this site. I have turned down all such offers. I am also hearing every hour from new survivor registries, which seem to be popping up like mushrooms all over the Web. They ask me to link to their sites. I have stopped doing this as well.

Now that the initial frantic period is over, I fervently believe the time for independent survivor registries has passed. It is vitally important that information on survivors be centralized, so those still missing loved ones can get the best and most accurate possible information from one source. For that reason, I am urging people to stop creating their own survivor registries and to ask how they can support the official information channels that already exist.

Please visit www.nyc.gov to find out how to report survivors, how to search for missing loved ones, and how you can assist in all other relief efforts. Let's not add to the misery of the bereaved by providing more misinformation.

My most prayerful wishes are with the victims and their families in this time of tragedy, and I sincerely hope that you find your own loved ones safe and sound.

Bill Shunn
14 September 2001
New York City, Earth

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