Dismantled by storms, united by social media.
|By Kammie Avant on May. 6, 2011||Tweet|
On April 27, a series of tornadoes swept across the South, cutting a path of devastation in the terrain and lives of thousands of people, particular across our agency's home state of Alabama.
I could write for hours about the personal stories of heartbreak and heroism we've all seen and experienced over the past week, but it's a story many of us are familiar with by now. Instead, I want to talk about the powerful role that social media played in the hours and days that followed.
In my profession, we talk a lot about our digital community, but I've never experienced anything like the outpouring of support that we've seen over the past week. Strangers across the state, country and world took matters and information into their own hands, changing how tragedy plays out in a digital world.
In just over a week, the page's audience is nearing 100,000, with 3,000 images of recovered items. Thanks to the page, many belongings have been reunited with their owners. (Learn more by watching the video above, created by Facebook itself.)
The day after the storm, one of my coworkers here at Luckie created a similar Page called "Animals Lost & Found from the Tornadoes in Alabama on 4/27/2011," motivated by a friend who had lost her dog in the storm. The page now boasts more than 30,000 Likes and 378 images of pets trying to find their way home.
The group of friends who have been running the Page followed up with a similarly titled blog to organize lost-and-found pet info, fundraising efforts, and shelter information. In addition to helping reunite pets and owners, they've raised thousands of dollars for animal rescue projects. Check out the Found page to see all the dogs reunited with their owners through this special project.
In times like these, we tend to forget about the little things — prom season, for example. A Facebook page came together called "Prom Dresses for Tornado Victims" so teens who lost everything can let their hair down, or do it up big as the case may be, forget about the pain and just be teenagers again for one night.
Twitter also has witnessed an outpouring of support. The hashtags #ALneeds and #ALhaves were created to share information about community needs and supplies to be distributed. Meanwhile, the #WeAreAlabama hashtag has served as a central rallying point on Twitter for residents and out-of-state supporters alike.
With their houses still standing and industrial kitchens shutting down for the summer, the massive University of Alabama Greek system has started up the Twitter account UA_Greek_Relief, cooking meals for volunteers and those in need, while also using a few chapter houses as drop-off locations for donations.
Even the state's longstanding football rivarly has gone on hiatus, as Auburn fans and alumni help the University of Alabama's hometown with the support site Toomers for Tuscaloosa and on Twitterat @Toomers4TTown. (Toomers Corner is an Auburn landmark whose recent vandalism has sparked an especially dark period for the two schools, which makes it all the more uplifiting to see it used as a cooperative rallying cry.)
The group has been working tirelessly to raise money, collect donations and draw positive attention to their athletic archriva, with no sign of letting up — until fall, at least.
There are countless more examples like these, which is what truly motivated me to write this post. Since the tragedy struck nine days ago, the needs and support of our neighbors have never been more than a tweet or status update away.
If you're in Central Alabama and would like to join us in volunteering locally, check out Hands on Birmingham or one of the efforts mentioned above. For information on drop-off locations for donations or financial needs, visit Alabama Possible or check in with our friends over at al.com. Another easy way to help is to donate directly to United Way of Central Alabama's Tornado Relief Fund.