As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 two things struck me – 1. How would it have been different if social media had been around? 2. I still was carrying a lot of emotion when it came to 9/11.
Everyone has a story of where they were when 9/11 happened. It didn’t matter if you lived in Manhattan or Des Moines, Iowa, your world suddenly stopped that day. I had just moved back from New York City to my hometown of Chicago a month before it happened. I did know people who lost loved ones from 9/11 and I did feel a sense of guilt for leaving the city behind.
I found out about the attacks when my father called me at work. He had been home watching the news and called when the first tower was struck. I kind of brushed him off because I was busy and had no idea the impact of what he was talking about. He called back when the attacks continued and I began to worry because his voice was wobbling. After all dads don’t cry often. At least my Dad doesn’t. I remember hanging up the phone and watching the office file one by one into the conference room where there was a TV. We were all watching in horror before they made the announcement to evacuate the building. There was a mad rush as we tried to get away from the tall skyscrapers of downtown to the train station. It was the longest elevator ride down 21 floors I had ever experienced.
Once home, I remember trying to call my friends back in New York and not being able to get through to any of them. All the phone lines were tied up and at the time texting never crossed my mind. It was a helpless feeling to not be able to connect.
Fast forward 10 years, and I truly believe that if I received the same call from my father today, Twitter would have been one of the first places I checked for news and Facebook the first place to check on my friends. Imagine going through half your phone list calling them one-by-one versus scanning a newsfeed and knowing instantly. Sure Facebook could feel less personal then a phone call but at that time it wasn’t about being personal it was just about knowing he or she was alive.
We’ve seen how people have used social media to connect over and over when disaster strikes from cleaning up cities post riot in London to posting a lost and found on Facebook after tornadoes struck the South. Social has allowed us to organize quickly, connect no matter what the distance and “see” the disaster firsthand through the tweets, posts and pictures of those on the ground.
Part of me is glad social wasn’t around when 9/11 hit because it was so horrific. Part of me wish it had existed so I could have received more answers more quickly. Either way I’m taking time to deal with some emotions (to feel, not wallow) on Sunday and to be grateful for all the good that has happened these last ten years.
How do you think 9/11 would have been different if social media was around?