I remember a perfect late-summer sky on the morning of 9/11. My New York City apartment was on the 32nd floor of a building at 43rd and 10th; the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. It was my last week there; I had just accepted a job in Atlanta and was in the process of boxing up my stuff. I was emailing friends and contacts my new address when my phone rang. My buddy Eric in Dallas told me to turn on the TV; someone had just flown a plane into the World Trade Center. I turned it on just in time to see the second plane hit.
Even if you weren’t in New York, you have a 9/11 story. Social media, which has transformed these times into the Age of Sharing, is giving us all the opportunity to broadcast our thoughts about that terrible day as we get ready to observe its 10th anniversary. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve no doubt already seen some of those stories from family and friends. By the time Sunday gets here, your social networks may be overloaded with memories, depending on whether or not you’re ready to move on by then.
Me? I think it’s a positive thing to have this social media-based power at this time in our history because of something a grade school teacher once told me: joy shared is doubled, sorrow shared is halved.
Various media outlets and other organizations have set up special commemorative sections that include social media and technology for people to tell their stories about Sept. 11 and voice opinions about what’s happened to our world in the decade since then. The New York Times’ impressive “9/11: The Reckoning” section includes “Where Were You?,” a Google Maps portion that lets you pinpoint your location in the world on that day, post a brief comment, and then share it via Facebook or Twitter.
Broadcastr, a smartphone app, mixes a similar location-based approach with audio files. A partnership with the 9/11 Memorial Museum allows users to dial a phone number and record their stories, which can be listened to on your iPhone, Android phone or the Broadcastr website.
There have already been several blog posts and other analysis of 9/11 that ties in social media’s rise in the world since then. In my opinion, the best one yet is courtesy of Peter Stringer, the director of new media for the Boston Celtics and a contributor to BostInnovation.com. He asks how different things would have been if Facebook, Twitter, smartphone cameras and text messaging had been in wide use on that day. It’s a fascinating read, and I can picture my own actions on that day using his examples.
I would have used my smartphone to send Facebook and Twitter pictures and videos of what I was seeing and hearing from my mid-Manhattan neighborhood – streams of people on 10th Avenue, some of them crying, who had walked all the way from downtown; the view from further down the West Side Highway of the destruction, which make it look like a volcano had erupted in the Financial District; the snippets of conversations and curses from deli customers.
And that night. Usually, the New York skies are buzzing at all hours thanks to three major airports and a smaller one at Teterboro, N.J. On the night of Sept. 11, nothing moved in the skies. I knew there were military jets patrolling the city, but I don’t remember hearing them.
I do remember hearing sirens all night long.
Where were you 10 years ago?