Social Media Spreads Messages of Devastating Joplin, Missouri Tornado

My heart hurts.

But YOU, my social media friends?  You are just the salve I need.  You give me hope and remind me that this new frontier – this crazy space we are creating moment by moment, tweet by tweet, post by post – is, in fact powerful AND, even better – moved by GOOD.

By now you have to know, Joplin, Missouri – a small town in the SouthWest corner of the state was absolutely devastated by a tornado late this afternoon.  I’ve been mesmerized by the coverage and the ability of the people in this social media world to respond, to help, to share.

Photo Credit - AP Mark Schiefelbein

As I began to write this last night, 24 people were confirmed dead.  The pictures are apocalyptic.  The city’s main hospital looks like it belongs in a war zone.  The high school suffered ‘catastropic damage’.  Debris from Joplin is landing more than 80 miles away in the towns surrounding Springfield, Missouri.

I called Springfield home for 4 years…. so this story particularly makes me ache.  As I ached, I did what I normally do – I tweeted.  I listened.  I watched. I shared information. And you, in turn, shared it again and again.

Every time you sent it out, you potentially put the information in front of someone else who needed it.  And never was that more clear for me than when I tweeted about a woman named Tami Roderick.  I learned about Tami on one of many Facebook pages that popped up to provide updates, to reunite family and friends and to provide ways for people to help.  On this particular page, Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery, I learned via @HealthByMom, Tami was looking for her mom and brother, Terri and Joel Stim.  So I tweeted about it.

And because you are amazing and fabulous? And like me  - so many of you are moved by good, you simply couldn’t bear the thought of this woman sitting in her home, unable to reach her family, devastated as she watched the video on the news. So you re-tweeted it and re-tweeted it.

My stream was a beautiful mess of Re-tweets.  And it reminded me just how much I love what I do…. how happy I am to be a part of something so big, so strong, with the ability to reach out and touch people in minutes, in hours.

The Tornado hit shortly before 6pm Sunday night.  The first Facebook page of the Recovery was available, I believe, within an hour and a half.  As I lay in my bed writing this, nearly 5.5 hours later…. that Facebook page had over 33-thousand ‘likes’.  Now, the next morning – it is up over 44-thousand. While that may not solve the problems Joplin is experiencing, and while the daylight is bringing more heartache, it is comforting to me to know there are thousands of people who care enough to share a message.

And this morning…  though I cried as I watched the news – hearing the death toll had reached 89 and was still climbing….  witnessing the loss, I also cried as I read this in my twitter stream.

Thank you to the many, many people who shared this message…. who helped to get the word out.  The Red Cross has services set up to help families and friends find each other, but I truly believe all of the extra word of mouth helps.  And, just knowing that you are *maybe* helping in some small way?  That is priceless.

If you can help, please donate to the Red Cross of the Ozarks.

Thank you for keeping the power of good strong in my heart and mind and in those of the people of Joplin.

  • Love the quick timing of social media and articles like this one from you Danielle. I am soooo happy to read Terri and Joel are found and SAFE. So sad for those who are not. Keep up the great work from the heart mama. -Suzanne Tucker

  • What a wonderful little message of hope in the middle of this brutal suffering.

  • Danielle Smith

    Suzanne – thank you so much for this….  I’m grateful for you.  This is just one of those moments that reminds me not only how grateful I am for the people in my life, but how truly amazed I am by this space….

  • Danielle Smith

    Susan – that is JUST how I felt about it – as heartbroken as I have felt about the entire situation – this was ONE moment that made me cry with joy…. thank you.

  • Beth lackey

    For the children of Joplin- search on face bookGracies Toy Chest for Joplin

  • Mo

    I wanted to let you know how the media worked for me on this day.  We live in Kansas City, some 2 hours north of Joplin.  The skies were looking a little weird all afternoon.  We had been to a birthday party and when we got home about 4pm I got on the Storm Chasers website to see what kind of weather was around us  By 5pm the skies around here were clear but now I was hooked to this site by the ever growing activity in southern Kansas and Missouri.  My husband by now had lost interest and was watching a Royals game but I was intgrigued by the chats that were getting more and more freqquent with sightings of funnels.  The first sighting of the tornado as indicated by a storm chaser was probably about 5 minutes before it actually hit the city.  When it hit there were immediately and I mean immediately calls for help for Joplin on the chat.  The city had been destroyed!  I was amazed that this happened right before my eyes.  I turned on the weather channel in utter amazement that what I had seen unfold on the internet was such a devastating occurance.  I like you immediately turned to social media to try and help from this distance.  I passed on messages that I thought were relevant and retweeted many times.  We do live in a very different world but a good and great one nonetheless.  Thanks for your story.  I thought I was the only one who felt that as the tornado hit Joplin there were immediately thousands of people helping from one end of the globe to another.

  • Danielle Smith

    Beth – thank you for this – is this what the kids need?  Please clarify – I’m happy to spread the word…

  • Danielle Smith

    Mo – thank you so much for sharing your story – I truly think the power we possess in times like this is invaluable.  Like you,  I shared, tweeted and retweeted anything that I thought may be helpful…. and I’m grateful to know that we were able to make even the smallest difference.  You are wonderful!

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