July 20, 2012
We have unfortunately suffered a lot of national tragedies during my lifetime. But now that most everybody has Facebook, Twitter or another way of connecting to a social network at all times, we have eerie ways of experiencing tragedies.
I first learned of the Aurora, Colo., shooting through an AP breaking news alert from my iPhone late at night. As multiple alerts came in to reveal more details, it was clear that this wasn't just a normal bad event. The last such event with so many updates throughout a day was the Gabby Giffords shooting. The theater shooting unfortunately claimed twice as many lives and even more wounded victims.
Once I woke up, the event played itself out on social media as more people found out about it for the first time. One of the first items I noticed was a mention of a young woman named Jessica Redfield (@JessicaRedfield). This was the pen name of an aspiring sports journalist named Jessica Ghawi. You read her final tweets and it's this eerie look into some of the last thoughts of someone killed in such a tragic event. When I went to see "Ted" a few weeks ago, I know I checked in using FourSquare and probably made a mention of it on Facebook. Many of you probably do the same things at movies. I had two friends post how awesome they thought the movie was after they returned home.
All thanks to a madman, this woman and 11 others won't get that chance.
Jessica's story was made even more notable by the fact that she had recently written a blog entry about narrowly escaping a shooting in Toronto. You try not to overanalyze everything and wonder what she did that made fate so intent on taking her. Her story is similar to 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and died in the Gabby Giffords shooting.
Luckily, this story allowed a lot of people on Twitter to honor the memory of Jessica with tweets. I know Erin Andrews and Grant Wahl did. Thanks to a retweet, I even got to see some notes of remembrance from Jordan Ghawi (@JordanGhawi), Jessica's sister. This one is probably the best: "Let us remember the names of the victims and not the name of the coward who committed this act." I honestly can't even remember the shooter's name off the top of my head right now. I guess that's good.
With all of these good uses of social media to connect with others on such a tragic day, you also have the downside. NBC News wrote up a story that I saw unfolding myself after some clothing retailer made the mother of all insensitive tweets. At least the news now is this was some overseas retailer who apparently had no idea of the shooting. However, I guarantee you that no matter its intentions the damage is done. I must've been one of millions who retweeted that after I saw it. I still can't believe someone didn't bother to check a trending hashtag before making such a statement.
I had this whole plan today to write about the 43rd anniversary of the moon landing. But it just doesn't seem right. I don't really know that writing much of anything seems right today, but at least social media allows us to now connect to people who would otherwise be complete strangers in such situations. Maybe people like Jordan Ghawi will get plenty of well wishes from people who didn't even know his sister, showing that the power of good can be much more awesome than the power of evil.
Michael Buckelew is a contributing writer for the Gwinnett Daily Post.