Cell phones have played a supporting role,sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hope-giving,in the 30-plus hours since terrorists attacked New York' World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
There have been chilling stories of passengers on doomed jets using mobile phones to contact loved ones and anecdotes concerning victims of the attack dialing for help from beneath the World Trade Center's remains.
Verizon Wireless said Wednesday that it is using its technology to aid in the rescue effort.
A spokesman for the carrier said that the company has set up a COW (cell on wheels) at the Pentagon in order to increase local mobile-phone coverage that was cut off after an airliner smashed into the building.
Spokesman John Johnson said that about 200 new and refurbished cell phones were provided along with the COW, with priority given to emergency workers trying to give aid to people that may still be trapped in the wreckage of the Pentagon, the hub of U.S. military operations.
Johnson also said that Verizon Wireless had deployed a COLT (cell on a light truck) on behalf of an unnamed federal agency in the Shenandoah Mountain Range.
Another 1,100 phones have been distributed to workers in other areas of Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.
"Getting the phones back" is not a concern, Johnson said.
Johnson said that at the height of yesterday's phone-network overload, many callers opted to send short text messages over their cell phones, often when they could not successfully place a voice call.
That short-message "uses a tenth of the radio capacity that a voice call requires," Johnson said.
He added that Verizon Wireless' network was operating yesterday at 50 to 100 percent greater than normal traffic. He declined to provide a number of actual calls placed.
+In New York, another 5,000 cell phones have been made available, with about 700 of them in use by various relief agencies. Several COWS and COLTS have been deployed in lower Manhattan and on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.
+Verizon Wireless' main switching office is located at the epicenter of the New York attack, Johnson said. "It is probably the only building" still standing in the area, he added.
Some 500 Verizon employees were believed to be in the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers collapsed.
However, Johnson said that he believed all Verizon employees had been evacuated from the company's office in lower Manhattan.