Skip to content

The Power of Technology to Unite People in Times of Tragedy

As you all know, a major tragedy struck Boston on April 15. It left America frozen in shock, and affected people all around the world who had loved ones running in the Boston Marathon. Prime suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are believed to have caused this heartless tragedy. Although Tamerlan (26) has passed away, Dzhokhar (19) was captured alive and is currently in custody.

The past two weeks have been a period of mourning for many, but have also shown how strong America stands in times of terror. One underlying theme of this tragedy is the use of technology. We were able to create support networks, piece together parts of the investigation puzzle, and eventually capture the coward responsible for this disaster, all through technology.

image from thegatewaypundit.com
image from thegatewaypundit.com

 

image from npr.org
image from npr.org

 

image from mashable.com
image from mashable.com

First, foremost, and most obvious, is the role of social media in the Boston Marathon Bombings. Minutes after the bombs went off, tweets and statuses flooded the social networks, bringing to attention what had happened and extending condolences for those affected. #PrayForBoston was a rather popular hashtag, but social media users extended thoughts and prayers in their own ways. Pictures flooded the internet; pictures of the trauma and terror that was occurring, but also pictures of selfless acts of love and compassion that showed how amazing the human race really is.

Later that night, officials urged anyone who captured photographs or videos of the scene to send them to the FBI. Thousands of pictures flooded the internet, and in a matter of days, officials were able to identify suspects based off of user-submitted pictures. (4chan has a collection of photos taken on the day of the bombing)

Another way technology was present in this unfortunate tragedy actually helped Boston police confirm the hiding location of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Thermal images, taken from a special camera in a helicopter were used to verify that the suspect was hiding in a Watertown resident’s boat. More information, and the images produced by the camera can be seen here. These thermal images helped the Boston Police keep a confined and guarded area around Tsarnaev.

Many people do not know this, but a Google Drive document was created to help those without shelter find housing. Thousands upon thousands of people volunteered their homes to help those in need. Using a request form and a Google Doc spreadsheet was easily the most efficient way to go about housing those in need in Boston. Anyone who had a mobile phone with internet access could access this request. This display of unconditional love is rarely seen by mankind, but during this tragedy the greater Boston community used Google Drive as a tool to ensure that everyone had a place to stay for the nights that followed the bombing. Countless people unified together via the internet in a matter of hours to help out those in need. This is one of the finest examples of how the internet can be used for good causes.

Request form for those in the Boston area without shelter - self-taken image
Request form for those in the Boston area without shelter

 

a fraction of the list of Boston residents willing to house people - self-taken image
a fraction of the list of Boston residents willing to house people

Tragedies such as the Boston Marathon Bombing can truly bring tears to a nation that thrives on diversity, peace, and freedom. If anything, we have become a stronger nation the past weeks. We have come together as one large community and shown that we won’t allow these senseless acts of terror bring us down. We have seen the compassion and bravery of thousands of individuals help those who needed it most. Most impressively, we used technology in countless acts to help those in need, assist authorities with the investigation, and capture one of the prime suspects. In a world where we constantly hear about inappropriate uses of technology (cyber-bullying, sexting, etc.), we often forget about the good things that come about because of technology, and how technology can help unify a country after a national terror.

Prayers and thoughts to those affected by the Boston bombing. Stay safe, and remember that you have the support of millions of people worldwide.

image from theatlantic.com
image from theatlantic.com

How have you seen technology unite people? Respond below in the comments section or tweet me!

Paul Rinella

Hey everyone! I'm Paul, and I'm currently a freshman in Whitman and the iSchool. I am pursuing a degree in accounting, finance, and IT. Some of my free time activities include playing baseball, playing the guitar and piano, and watching the New York Yankees. I would love to study abroad in Hong Kong, and look forward to the rest of my career at Syracuse University!

More Posts