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What would 9/11 have been like with social media?

It’s a predictible yet thought provoking question poking its way along the Internet today. What would the horrors of 9/11 be like if we had social media?

Alexia Tsotsis raises the question in a blog post in LA Weekly.

Others are raising it as well. On Twitter today, #whereiwas is attracting some interesting and heartfelt reflection.

“In school, crammed in front of a tv with dozens of other students, and also on the computer, all of which in utter disbelief.” @annakarene

“Woken by the first plane, my NY apt windows that overlooked the towers shook… Couldn’t comprehend until the 2nd plane struck.” @tcroberts

I was in the newsroom of the Akron Beacon Journal, horrified at the news cascading across the wires and the Internet and unfolding on television. We mobilized for an extra edition that afternoon, and then worked late into the night, trying to serve the needs of our community. Because of this activity, the real horror of the day didn’t really hit until later, and for that I was grateful.

Later, the paper initiated an effort we named the Fire Truck Fund, calling for donations from readers to help the City of New York purchase a new fire truck. The outpouring from the community was overwhelming and energizing, as the readers of the Akron Beacon Journal donated more than $1.3 million. We purchased not only a fire truck, but police cars and more. We established bonds with NY firefighters that lasted for years. 

This effort, by mainstream media, mobilized thousands. In a way, it represents the best of social media, helping communities come together through conversation and action. The newspaper and its partners in Akron gave our community something to do, action that soothed the soul and touched the immediate victims of that deadly attack.

Our newspaper and other media during those painful days provided both information and solace, and helped create a sense of community when we needed it most.

What about the question cruising social media today? What would 9/11 have been like? The most obvious and painful answer is obvious. There would have been numerous accounts from the planes and the World Trade Center, raw and terrible.

But mainstream media and social media would have complemented each other as well. Each providing a community, an outlet and an ongoing communication at a time when we desperately needed to express ourselves.

As you think back on that day eight years ago, and you think about how you use social media now, what do you think? Would you have been all over Twitter that day? Facebook? Other sites? What would you have seen? What would it have been like?

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