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On Moore and Joplin and Social Media’s help

May 21, 2013 1 comment

joplin

May 22nd is a date that I will always remember. We typically remember dates that are special occasions, birthdays and anniversaries, etc. But we also remember dates surrounding events that were catastrophic. That is the case with me for May 22nd. This is the day when an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri, the town I grew up in.

Unfortunately, the people of Moore, Oklahoma will now always remember yesterday’s date, May 20, 2013 for the same reason. All the news on Moore is just now coming out. I can’t really speak to it. But as I watched The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes come onto the scene, he kept referencing Joplin from two years ago. In fact, before arriving he tweeted, “I do not want to see another #Joplin worst day of my life. #prayformoore.” And indeed, Moore looks very bad. Joplin’s loss of life was 161. Moore right now is 24, but it is still early.

Two years ago, I watched the news images as I did yesterday, but the difference was, I knew my hometown of Joplin like the back of my hand. I actually lived 1000 miles away when the tornado hit. I knew my family and friends were there. One third of the city was decimated. How about my loved ones? It was so devastating that cell phones were no longer a reliable means of communication. I recall trying to call and see if family members were okay. That was the story of so many.

A need to communicate effectively and share information arose out of this awful situation. Social media filled much of that role. My aunt, who heads up the library in Joplin, was asking on Facebook if anyone had heard from my grandmother. I replied that she was ok. She then came back asking where I got that information; did someone talk to her? My sister made the contact, and Facebook passed on the news to other worried individuals in a more reliable way.

There were many pages created to help after this disaster. Missing people boards, volunteer info, fundraising and donation instructions. The Joplin Tornado Info page, started up less than two hours after the tornado by 23 year old Genevieve Williams from Neosho, MO was honored as one of seven nominees for a 2011 Mashable Award in the Social Good Cause Campaign Category. It became the clearing house of information, staffed entirely by volunteers. It seems all of Joplin was on the page with 49,000 likes so quickly. I saw, yesterday that Moore Oklahoma Tornado Info page has gone live modeled after JTI to fill the same sort of role. It already has 32,556 likes. A much smaller page was also created yesterday called, Joplin Loves Moore. I know many from this area have already been deployed to lend a helping hand.

My hometown knows what Moore is going through. In fact tomorrow, we will stand in what was ground zero for a moment of silence exactly two years after that tragedy. The recovery has been nothing short of amazing, and is still ongoing. I was so impacted by everything that occurred and the stories coming out of Joplin that I moved back to the area, and completed a feature-length documentary that chronicles that fateful day and the year following- www.steadfastdocumentary.com.

What can you do to help? If Joplin is an indicator, a good place to start would be Moore Oklahoma Tornado Info’s Facebook page and other social media channels for real-time information.

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