There is at least some relative calm amidst the panic that is the "ongoing event" in Boston right now: Cellphone service is overwhelmed in the area, but there remain important ways for people to reach loved ones online.* (The Boston Globe is reporting "at least 100 people" injured as Mass General and local hospitals became flooded with a gruesome scene pouring out from the finish line of the Boston Marathon.) Text messages appear to be getting through sporadically, but family and friends have been connecting on social media all Monday afternoon, as thousands descended on Twitter and Facebook to confirm the good news, share the bad, and sort out the mess of an explosive and horrifying day when seemingly everyone knew someone in Boston.
Tweets were difficult to parse amidst all the swirling news reports, but prayers and well wishes shone through — another example of how disaster can "slap the silly" out of Twitter, and transform it back into a useful platform, when things of this nature unfold:
Everyone. I'm ok! No cell service & this is first I could get to wifi. Very Close call...rattled but lucky. Praying for #Boston love u all— Nick Gismondi (@NickGismondi) April 15, 2013
Guys I'm home now and safe. Thank you for checking. Cell service is totally jammed up. Friends in #Boston: use texts, they are going through— Matt Kurkowski (@mkurkowski) April 15, 2013
Facebook has proven perhaps an even more useful resource, as an easy way to update many close friends at a time, especially as text messages stopped going through clearly and efficiently. The social network's own version of "at" messages has allowed Boston area residents to send good news to multiple people:
It's unclear if these messages are making their way live to the web via data networks or wireless working, but Twitter via text message is another option, since text messages seem to be working every now and then.
In addition to social media, Google has released an extremely useful "person finder" for the Boston Marathon explosions, which is useful for those in Boston and elsewhere, as it has widgets for people with information about others — as well as those looking for people. Indeed, we've come a long way since the posters of loved ones taped on New York City buildings eleven Septembers ago.
Still: Don't panic if you can't find the person you're looking for — the Google database may not have all the information, and it's running slowly. The Red Cross's Safe and Well System serves a similar purpose, where people can register information about yourself or someone you're looking for. There are also these Boston hotlines for families of victims: 617-635-4500. And, for tips: 1-800-494-TIPS.
For those not getting any signals from people they know down at the event, this marathon tracker will tell you how far along in the marathon registered runners had gotten. The explosions started happening at 2:50 p.m., for reference.