— Matt Kryger (@MattKryger) November 11, 2012
For two minutes last night it seemed possible that my mother’s apartment complex had exploded. (It didn’t.) It was midnight. I was checking Twitter. An Indianapolis friend said there had been a loud boom on the south side that people had heard from miles away. I clicked the tweet’s hashtag and discovered that there had been an explosion. A neighborhood was on fire. This is when my inner monologue started chanting, Please don’t be my mom’s place. Please don’t be my mom’s place. Please, please, please, don’t be my mom’s place. Then came the two minutes of not-quite-panic, more like very-heightened-alert, during which I searched for the cross streets of the explosion on Google Maps. (Typing on a smartphone is irritably slow at moments like these.) Finally the map came up and I was relieved that my mother’s place was in no immediate danger.Whew.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, a neighborhood six miles away did explode, killing at least two people. In the hours immediately after the tragedy, I found myself getting most of my information from Twitter, which was good in many ways and also bad.
There were first-hand reports, photos, and videos from news reporters, people on the scene, and other reputable sources, as well as links to live streaming broadcasts from the local news stations.
There were rumors that the explosion had been caused by a meteorite, a gas leak, a meth lab, the earthquake earlier in the day in Kentucky, a military drone strike, and as a result of Obama being re-elected. Seriously. ETA: Tonight I have also seen theories that it was a missile attack or a terrorist bomb maker who didn’t know what he was doing because the FBI and Homeland Security have allegedly been seen investigating the debris.
There was helpful information about where evacuees were being transported and the best ways for you to donate or assist. Seeing the fast response and support from the community was reassuring and heartwarming.
There was a lot of fighting over what hashtag to use for the event. Because the source of the sound had originally been unknown, the hashtag #indyboom had been started. Once it was discovered that the boom was caused by an explosion that had killed at least two people, this tag did seem rather insensitive. Lots of people were using the hashtag #explosion instead, then later #indyexplosion. Unfortunately, once a hashtag gets started it’s hard to get everyone to agree to change it. If you use the less popular tag your tweet is less likely to be seen, and using two or three hashtags in the same tweet eats up valuable characters. I agree, the hashtag isn’t great, but it seemed rather trivial to be fighting over a hashtag when the world was on fire. #indyBoom is the hashtag we’re stuck with. Sorry.
If you thought using the hashtag #indyboom was bad, the only thing worse is being a spammer who uses that tag to promote their spammy links disguised as news.
Despite all that, I found myself glued to the Twitter feed for at least two hours, absorbing all the information I could as it came in. The same thing happened to me last year when the stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair. Even though I don’t live in Indianapolis, I find myself transfixed by any sort of disaster that takes place there. It makes it seem more real when you know exactly where something horrible happened, when you’ve seen a concert where that stage collapsed or if you’ve driven by that neighborhood on your way to the vet.
I feel sorry for everyone who was harmed or killed during this disaster, and for all the people who no longer have homes. But I’m also thankful that all my people are ok. It’s a lot to be thankful for when we’re still over a week away from Thanksgiving.