As far as I know, everyone I know is safe and accounted for following the Boston Marathon bombings. It’s surreal, but it’s also too familiar, this show following what is undoubtedly a terrorist attack. Not just 9/11 but Oklahoma City too. I can’t stop watching (or as is the case these days, reading, because I can’t let the kids see it), and as I read I am by turns numbed and driven to tears.
Today was a day off for me. It’s a holiday in Massachusetts, Patriots Day, when we commemorate the battle of Lexington Green, the famous shot-heard-round-the-world that began the American Revolution. We’d gone out on the beautiful early spring day to take a walk in the state park nearby and get some lunch. After we got home Melanie and I were both on our computers when I heard Melanie say something about people on Facebook talking about an explosion at the Marathon.
That’s when social media indeed burst to life. My Twitter timeline was moving a mile per minute as was my Facebook news feed. Putting on my social media manager hat, I went to the Archdiocese of Boston’s Hootsuite dashboard and turned off all scheduled updates (you don’t want to send out accidentally something that seems insensitive) and then began monitoring commentary.
Cardinal Seán was still in the Holy Land, wrapping up a weeklong pilgrimage with 29 Boston priests and planning to come back today so I knew an official statement from him would not be coming immediately. So I posted a Facebook update (which automatically mirrors to Twitter) on our Page that said:
As more reports came in with confirmation of injuries and deaths, I retweeted a Boston Police Department tweet along with a prayer:
May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. T @boston_police: Update 23 injuries2 dead
— Archdio. of Boston (@bostoncatholic) April 15, 2013
People responded strongly to the first several updates and so I followed up about an hour later with another Facebook update:
That got quite a bit of attention, including this news story out of Catholic News Agency and EWTN.
Finally a few hours later we got the official statement from Cardinal Seán:
This isn’t a time to trumpet numbers, but those prayers and requests for prayers were very viral. They received hundreds of shares and retweets each in very short time and on Facebook were seen tens of thousands of times. This isn’t a ghoulish bragging but an acknowledgement that getting something simple like those requests for prayers out very quickly touched people’s hearts and were the spark presumably for thousands and thousands of prayers for the victims of the bombings.
Of course, all that is beside the point now, which is to care for the injured, pray for the dead, console the grieving, and bring justice to the bastards who did this.