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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tom Cannavan

The terrible events in the US last week proved what a powerful force for good the Internet can be. There are around half a dozen long-established wine discussion boards on the Net. These are genuine communities of hundreds, sometimes even thousands of wine lovers, many of whom are in the trade. It was fascinating to see the spontaneous reaction of these communities to the terrorist attacks. The board at declared a "day of silence" in respect for their fellows across the Atlantic. A large US board at became a vehicle for outpourings of anger, sadness and horror. A debate ensued on when it was appropriate to return to the topic of wine. As one eloquent member wrote: "I raise a glass for several reasons tonight. I raise a glass in solemn tribute to the dead, the wounded, the families. I raise a glass in thanks to the workers and volunteers who have risked lives to help. I raise a glass in substitute for a finger a middle finger held aloft to those who would presume that they can destroy a nation's spirit by acts of cowardice." became deeply involved in the unfolding tragedy. This is a normally rather acerbic meeting place for East Coast "winos", some of whom are importers or merchants in the Big Apple. Within half an hour of the attack it had become an emergency contact centre for its members. Dozens of participants checked-in to declare they were OK, creating an online roll call of the safe and well. Requests poured in for news of friends and family working in the area (such as the staff of Chambers Street Wines, a block or two from the twin towers). Thankfully, all the answers were positive.