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Rethinking “Survival”

The streaming media industry, along with the rest of the democratic world, continues to reel in shock, sadness and anger at the terrorist attacks which destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center, four planes, a section of the Pentagon, and an as-yet-unknown number of human lives yesterday.

Among one of the known victims was Daniel Lewin (pictured above), Akamai’s co-founder and chief technical officer. He was on board American Airlines Flight 11, one of two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on Tuesday. Lewin was one of 92 people who died on Flight 11, according to American Airlines.

"Danny was a wonderful human being. He will be deeply missed by his many friends at Akamai," said Akamai’s CEO George Conrades. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Danny’s family, friends and colleagues during this time of national tragedy and personal loss." Born in Denver, Colo., Lewin grew up in Jerusalem, Israel. Before co-founding Akamai in 1998, Lewin worked for IBM’s research laboratory in Haifa, Israel. Lewin, who was 31, is survived by his wife and two sons.

Even online games were affected. On Tuesday, Electronic Arts suspended its online game Majestic as a mark of respect for the catastrophe. "Given the recent national tragedy, we feel that some of the fictional elements in the game may not be appropriate at this time," the company said in a statement. The first episode of Majestic features an explosion at a computer company and the game as whole centers on a malign conspiracy within the federal government.

Yesterday’s attacks have few comparable moments in post-War history (the assassination of John F. Kennedy is a possible exception) — moments when time seemed to stop, and it seemed futile to do anything but pause in astonished, barely articulated grief at the suffering of fellow human beings. The analysis, the investigation, the recrimination — that aspect of our psyche that interprets the world in order that existence within it may continue — will follow. But for now, many of our psyches are undergoing a sense of rupture, whether through grief at the loss of friends or relatives, or, if we have not experienced that loss directly, through a sense of anguish that so many others are now grieving, and the knowledge that the world is a place where evil can manifest itself so powerfully.

That sense of rupture, which could also be described as a feeling of "before and after," extends to this column itself, which was slated to address developments on Monday relating to ailing Net music company, Liquid Audio. These events remain worthy of coverage. But the day after the largest terrorist attacks in the history of the United States, the tribulations of digital entertainment companies seem faintly surreal.

Two days ago, the continued economic slump and the consequences for the continued survival of streaming media companies, were at the forefront of our minds. Today, we are thinking of the survival of firemen and policemen and brokers and executives and janitors and whoever else may still be trapped in the rubble of lower Manhattan; the survival of liberty and democracy in the face of those who would undermine it; the emotional and psychological survival of those who mourn their loved ones; the grief and recovery of the wife and sons of Daniel Lewin.

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