September 11th (9/11) attacks

Memorials: Mobile phones and other communication devices found in the rubble from the September 11 attacks in 2011 on the World Trade Center are displayed as part of a new exhibit in Washington D.C.

On September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, cell phones and in-plane credit card phones played a vital role. People trapped in the buildings, passengers on hijacked planes, and worried relatives all used their phones desperately to reach out. Many made calls to emergency services, seeking help, while others called their families to express love and share their fears.

After the attack, the cell phone network of New York City was rapidly overloaded (a mass call event) as traffic doubled over normal levels. Cell phone traffic also overloaded across the East Coast, leading to crashes of the cell phone network. Cellular COWs (cell towers on wheels) were deployed to fill gaps in network coverage in downtown Manhattan.

This tragic day showed how important mobile phones are in emergencies, as they can be lifelines for communication when every second counts. The high volume of calls even caused network overloads, highlighting the need for robust emergency communication systems.

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