Yesterday around 1:12pm MST, among the stream of the usual content marketing junk tweets on Twitter, a blip about “unconfirmed explosions at the Boston Marathon” caught my attention. I clicked through the Twitpic link and saw a graphic photo of a chaotic scene, and what appeared to be bodies and blood.
BTW… I’m not reposting links, images, names, photos, or videos on purpose.
I have relatives out in Boston. Boston Marathon is one of the largest events in Boston. I worried that my relatives could be out there.
Before I panicking, I checked Google to see if the news was covering it, to see if it was a hoax. There was some chatter among Boston blogs about the “unconfirmed bombing” as well. But no one was saying it was a hoax. This thing might be real.
I reposted the tweet that I saw and simply said, “OMG, unconfirmed bomb explosions at Boston Marathon,” hoping someone could confirm. Then I started to see more people tweeting about it. And then I spotted Mashable finally breaking the story. That confirmed it enough for me.
Mashable also pointed out that CBS was covering the Marathon at the time. I turned on the TV. “This is real,” I thought.
I remember what happened during 9/11 when I was trying to get a hold of my friends in New York: the phones will be jammed soon. I need to act fast.
Three of the relatives were on Facebook all the time. So I pulled up my Facebook app on my iPhone. I noticed right away that no one on Facebook was talking about it. I sent an email via Facebook Messenger to all the relatives.
I also had a friend in Denver who is from Boston, whose relatives are still out there. I texted her to see if she had heard anything. She texted me a back. She had no idea about the explosion. She had friends in the race. She tried to get a hold of them.
Two of the relatives put a post on their Facebook status saying they were okay. And one of them eventually got back to me via Facebook Messenger. None of them were near the race
The friend I texted also got back to me saying her friends were okay.
That left one cousin unaccounted for.
I didn’t have her direct phone number.
I had to think.
I called my mom in California. Even though my family in California has at least one TV on at all times, she hadn’t heard anything about the explosion. I told her to call her sister (my aunt) and see if her daughter (my cousin) was okay.
I then contacted my cousin’s sister via Facebook Messenger to see if she heard from her. I reached out to other cousins just in case.
One cousin was in Arizona and even though he’s on his mobile phone all the time, he had no clue. He texted my cousin in Boston for me, and also gave me her mobile phone number.
Both my mother, and my cousin in Boston texted me back at the same time.
She was safe.
The whole thing happened within a span of one hour.
My cousin reached out to me again later around 8pm MST confirming for me that the phones did eventually go out. I evidently had a very small window to get the word out.
I’m sharing this story to demonstrate how much communication technology has changed since 9/11. There are so many ways we can connect and reconnect with people now: Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and even good old text messaging.
People have been saying such technology is a waste of time, yet yesterday, social media became the hero. It was, for some people, a reliable news source.
If yesterday taught me anything it this: technology is only as useful as the resourcefulness of the people using it.
With so many devices taking photos and videos yesterday, hopefully, technology and some resourceful people will help capture the person(s) who committed this act of terror.
If you are a member of the tech community, I would encourage to check out Boston Tech Communities fundraiser for the Boston Marathon victims. All proceeds will be donated completely to programs working with victims of the attacks including Red Cross, Children’s Hospital, and others.
Thoughts and prayers to the people of Boston.