As reported by The Hartford Courant, July 14, 2005.

'We Are Not Afraid'

The Global Community Streams To A British Website For Support And Sends A Defiant Message To Terrorists

By William Weir

About a half-hour after the London terrorist bombings, a friend sent Alfie Dennan a photo of himself escaping the chaos with a sock over his mouth to block the smoke.

Dennan, a Londoner who lives 10 minutes from the site of a bombing, posted the photo on his mobile weblog. Within three hours, the image was picked up by the BBC and other media and made its way around the world. And soon, Dennan's weblog filled up with supportive comments from those who saw the picture.

That instant response inspired Dennan, a Web developer, and a few of his friends to create the site We're Not Afraid (werenotafraid.com), a defiant response to the terrorists. It started July 7, the day of the bombings, with images of themselves and their friends and family. The digital photos were accompanied by written messages telling the world that their lives would go on.

Within days, the website was flooded with similar submissions. First they came from other Britons, but contributions soon came in from the rest of Europe, the United States, South America, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, Dennan and the others were making their way through a backlog of thousands of "not afraid" submissions. The site had more than 4 million hits Tuesday. Now that technology allows for the creation of instant global communities, expect to see more websites like We're Not Afraid, said Steven Livingston, a director of the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"It's a way of talking back," Livingston said. "To say, `We are not afraid' and flip the finger is a way of talking back to those who would behead others and post the video on the Internet."

One of the contributors, Maryland resident Darcy Nair, sent a photo of herself with the words: "We Are Not Afraid. Acts of terrorism are the acts of cowards." Nair said she felt a sense of helplessness in the days after 9/11. Posting on We're Not Afraid may be a small act, but it does give people like her a sense that they're doing something.

"It seems that the only good answer from someone like me who's not in the government or military," she said. "There are so many other people who are joining in. When bunches of individuals get together - it does make me feel hopeful - there are so many other people who feel the same way."

Dennan was taken aback by how many people feel the same way. When he first created the website, he didn't expect it to go much beyond his online community. But in hindsight, he said, it makes sense.

"I think that not being afraid is a sentiment that's pretty human," Dennan said. "We've been told again and again to be afraid, and we're just tired of it in a general way."

He's glad he started something that has given people a way to find solace in one another. What happens with it in the future, he said, depends on what people want to do with it.

"It no longer belongs to me, but to the world," he said.

And the site now has a financial benefit. Tuesday, the website began selling T-shirts and bags. Profits will be used to pay for the website's server costs and will go to the British Red Cross' London Bomb Relief Fund.

The first few days after the bombings, the postings were a solemn reflection of the mood around the city. Some from the United States alluded to 9/11 and the nation's solidarity with England.

But the more submissions that came in, the more lighthearted they became - people on vacation, smiling and wearing funny hats. Dogs, cats, Mr. T and the Teletubbies got into the act, as did many people giving the finger.

"I think it's because it went global and people weren't as close to it," he said. "People responded with, `Chin up - we love you.'"

Some thought the postings were disrespectful, but Dennan and "99 percent" of the people he heard from saw the irreverent postings as a celebration of survival.

Robert Trestman, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said the Internet is becoming the modern version of "going down to the local church or pub with people who have had a shared experience and getting some support."

"The Web is an evolving protocol for human communication," he said. "For many of us, it seems much more immediate than writing a letter to someone. You would never know if it actually got there or did anything. Here, the response is pretty immediate. There is that sense that there is a genuine community at and around this given situation."