9-11 & Twitter: The Stories Around Us

Often, as I think back to the day of September 11, 2001, I think of the social technologies we have now, especially Twitter, and how things might have been different THEN. Maybe more people could have been rescued, for example. I imagine that people trapped in the rubble could have texted, and the people around the world could have helped crowdsource to triangulate where they were. Applications of social media for disaster response is a topic for another series of posts.

This morning, I opened my computer to find an email with a powerful essay from Col. Holly Doyne of the US Army and author of Kuwait Diary (about her work in the Iraq conflict). She highlighted some of her personal losses in the 9-11 disaster, recommended Exhibit 13 by Blue Man Group, talked about the losses of the day, the losses that followed, and the losses to us all from the changes made to keep us safe. She closed with this quotation.

“And the work of the righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.” From the Prayer Book for Jewish Personnel in the Armed Forces of the United States – 1984 JWB

When I opened Twitter, the discussion was already raging – people remembering, telling stories, personal experiences and more. I captured the following slide images in the space of just a few minutes. There is much much more in Twitter, but these few selections give a sampling of the stories being shared and the memories being relived. The power of Twitter (specifically) as well as microblogging and social media in general for storytelling, healing, sharing and disaster response ought to provoke further thought and what we can and should be doing with these new technologies, as well as what the risks may be at the personal level from not developing the competencies to make effective use of them.

4 responses to “9-11 & Twitter: The Stories Around Us

  1. Amazing. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.
    On one of the slides, someone said that even then, without Twitter, our online communities held us together. Very true. I remember being glued to the TV and computer for days.
    I was in college (in AZ), and for some reason I felt it was really important that I go to class that day. It was sociology, and the girl sitting next to me was very quiet. She told me later that she was from NY, and hadn’t heard from her Dad. She never came back to the class.
    Some of my friends on Facebook posted links to photo essays by different journalists.. and I read people’s accounts today on Twitter, as well as reading blog posts and watching videos..
    I’m really grateful that our online communities helped hold us together today, too.


    • That is exactly the message I wanted people to think about. You are both an astute and a compassionate reader. I am delighted that you are part of MY community! The next thought is to really LOOK at how social media changes how we help ourselves and how we help others, to be aware and plan for how we are going to use these tools the next times something happens – disaster or epidemic or whatever.

      There are so many stories. On one of the slides someone said they thought everyone in New York knew someone who died. I haven’t met any adult across the country who didn’t at least know someone who knew someone who died, and who went through the trauma of trying to locate a loved one who might have been there. My best friends and neighbors in Chicago had a business that had one location in the Towers. He was supposed to be there that morning and was flying in, but his flight was delayed (and then, of course, cancelled). He was supposed to be meeting at the Towers with another international business he’d worked with for years. Of the other business, no one survived. Everyone from the entire company had shown up for work. A guy I knew in high school, his younger brother died. We all know someone. Either firsthand, or through those we love and care for.


  2. I am a PhD student conducting research on how people are using social media in crisis situations and how such practices relate to heritage matters. Would you be open to answering questions about how you put this presentation together and what kind of tweets you decided to choose?

    Feel free to email me. Thanks, Sophia


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