Social media has become a common way of communicating. We have social media accounts for practically everything ranging from Facebook to stay in contact with friends and family, and Snapchat to send photos and everything in between. From chats, posts and feeds to tweets and pokes, there are endless ways to reach out online. Twitter is one of the best for immediate, real time messages. We are never away from the immediate inundation of information on everything. But this constant access to real time channels can have down sides. We don’t always stop to think about what we type as we type it. And this can backfire in some of the most spectacular ways. But we can also have some of the most shocking posts that manage to hit at just the right time. We get these notices right before disaster strikes. The combination of perfectly worded, spontaneous posts followed up by some of the most memorable disasters can be awe inspiring and will live on permanently due to social media. The world will always provide us with situations where we’ll find ourselves in “the wrong place at the wrong time,” and with that a wealth of opportunities to tweet about any given disaster. So let’s enjoy the roller coaster ride that Twitter can take us on.
15. Fireworks Plant Explosion – Mexico City – December, 2016
Disasters, both man made and natural, occur all over the world everyday. For generations, we would get news regarding these events from newspapers and television, but with the creation of multiple social media platforms, real time reports of events have become the norm. We are able to keep each other informed as things unfold. Some of the most disturbing and newsworthy events have been preceded by shocking and heart wrenching tweets. Twitter followed the horrific fireworks plant explosion that rocked through the area north of Mexico City. With many dead and injured, photos and tweets would bring this tragedy to the world’s attention. The following tweet shows how fast it can happen – NedaNews @NedaNews 20 Dec 2016 “Huge explosion at fireworks plant near Mexico City. Reports of people dead and several injured.”
14. Fire Island Floods – Fire Island – December, 2014
Living on an island will always present challenges that aren’t seen anywhere else. You are at the mercy of mother nature every second. When the weather turns horrible, a beautiful island paradise can become a nightmare of floodwater and wind damage. Your life can be turned upside down. Fire Island is the main center island of the barrier islands on the south shore of Long Island. In December of 2014, the East coast was slammed with a horrible winter storm. This nor’easter caused a great deal of damage and left the approximately 100 permanent residents stranded until the water went down. The island has been prone to flooding since Superstorm Sandy caused so much damage to the island. The following tweet sums up the heartbreaking situation that constantly occurs on this barrier island: marisa drago @marisadragoo 10 Dec 2014 “Floods in fire island yet again.” This simple statement shows how it’s not easy to put a natural disaster into words.
13. Government shutdown – USA – 2013
Some disasters are naturally occurring, but some of the most ridiculous are completely man made. I consider the constant bickering of the US government leading to a screeching halt of all government workings to be a huge disaster. Thousands of people are affected when the government of a large country comes to a screeching standstill. Jobs are suspended, benefits for many Americans get delayed, and critical infrastructure issues grind to a halt. It’s almost comical, but sad at the same time. When adults can’t learn to cooperate and work for the good of the people who elected them, it’s a sad situation. The shockingly witty and humorous comments that average Americans make are simply a way of putting a twist on a rather pathetic situation that we can’t control. The following tweet captures the whole situation with perfect humor and sarcasm: @mrdaveturner – “97% of NASA is shut down. I think it would sum up humanity nicely if our first response to alien contact was an out-of-office reply.” It shouldn’t come to a point that grown men and women can’t work together for the sake of the country.
12. Deepwater Horizon – Gulf of Mexico, 2010
This is a huge example of a disaster of epic proportions that came down to bad decisions and poor standards. This oil spill was the largest in US history and did monumental damage. The effects of this spill are still being felt seven years later. The attempts to stop the spill itself, the defective and low quality equipment and the sheer ineffectiveness of the many attempts to stop the tidal wave of oil pouring into the gulf were simply staggering. This is an example of large corporations cutting corners and trying to sweep things under the rug. The gulf coast region of the country had to live with the devastation that occurred. This tweet is shocking because of the almost nonchalant attitude used to describe this man made ecological disaster – Health Tweets @health_tweets “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Could Affect Health Gulf Coast Oil Slick Could Have Some Impact on Seafood and Air Quality.”
11. Hurricane Ike – September 14 – Gilchrist, TX
Hurricane Ike was one of the most costly storms that hit Galveston. Although it was listed as a category 2 storm, the winds and the storm surge was highly destructive. The ten to twenty foot storm surge that came in with 110 mph winds added up to total destruction for Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula. These cities were not equipped to deal with that much water rushing in. At the height of the storm, 2.6 million people were without power. But the storm itself was only the beginning of the nightmare. Much of the flood damage that was caused was never covered by insurance, leaving hundreds of thousands of people coping with the high costs of rebuilding. The devastation was ranked only behind Katrina and Rita for being the most expensive natural disaster. This eerie photo and tweet sums up the total devastation the gulf coast of Texas coped with. Abandoned Places @abandonedspaces – “A single home is left standing among debris from Hurricane Ike September 14, 2008 in Gilchrist, Texas…”
10. Megabus Explosion – Chicago – February 21, 2016
Disasters aren’t always massive in size, but to those in the middle of them, they feel like they are taking over the entire world. Travel reporter, Lucas Peterson, discovered that the hard way. The New York Times Frugal Traveler blog writer, was traveling from Chicago to Minneapolis when things quickly got harrowing. He live tweeted through the whole ordeal. The bus had a small fire that started over one wheel. This caused a tire to blow and the bus to go up in flames. No one was hurt, but many passengers lost their luggage. Although the passengers were not injured, due to the liability limits from Megabus, many suffered large losses on their possessions. Despite the calm tweets coming from Peterson, the whole ordeal had to be terrifying. This tweet from him during the situation is shocking in its simplicity and calm tone. The Frugal Traveler @frugaltraveler “Update: the bus exploded.” For someone to remain that calm is a true testament to grace under pressure.
9. Paris Shootings – November 13, 2015
This horrifying shooting definitely qualifies as a man made disaster. For those that were at the scene of this horrific nightmare, the scenes are most likely permanently etched in their minds. When people set out into the Paris streets that night, no one expected to see the carnage that resulted when a man opened fire with an automatic weapon. Several people were killed and injured. The horrifying tweets that came out of Paris during this ordeal are horrible. The pain that these people faced as they watched someone brutally attack them is unimaginable. The stark reality of it was summed up as tweets came in from the scene – Seth Porges ✔@sethporges “Huge crowd gathered at La Republique. Cops with guns drawn hiding behind vans. I’m getting out of here #paris.”
8. Terror Attacks on Paris – November 13, 2015
The same night that a gunman terrorized Paris, several bombings occurred. The death toll of this unspeakable act of terror was over 120 people. How many people who went to concerts and sporting events that night would have anticipated the chilling sights they would deal with? As the crisis unfolded, more and more tweets and photos came out of the multiple locations showing the decimation that occurred. Paris was rocked by multiple explosions that were later claimed to have been perpetrated by ISIS. The carnage of the disaster rocked the world as social media users shared what was going on to so many innocent people. This chillingly, factual tweet that came out along with the photo shows the horror that they experienced. jn75 @tyuirhjk “Reuters now reporting that its own reporter has been told that the operation at #Paris Bataclan has now ended.”
7. Storm Chaser Tragedy – Watonga, OK
Tornadoes are an awe inspiring and terrifying weather phenomena that many have learned to live with. Oklahoma residents know that they will face these storms every year. Storm chasers have long been a part of the Oklahoma scene. They are vital to the tracking and understanding of these massive storms. They know there are always chances that they could be hurt or killed by the very storms they are chasing. We all hope that each time they go out, they come home safely, but this tragedy is a stark and sad reminder of how fast things can change because of mother nature’s unpredictability. Tim Samaras and his son as well as another colleague were tracking and following tornadoes in El Reno. They were trying to parallel the storm and it’s being guessed that the tornado either changed course or another vortex formed. The horrifying screams of the three were overheard by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Officer Betsy Randolph.. The last tweet that was received was a statement for everyone to be careful. It’s the ultimate in irony that they were warning others right before the storms took them. Tim Samaras @Tim_Samaras – “Storms now initiating south of Watonga along triple point. Dangerous day ahead for OK–stay weather savvy!”
6. Plane skidded off runway – Denver, December, 2008
Plane crashes are a fear for a lot of people. With air travel being a common method of travel for practically everyone, we all face the reality of things that can go wrong. We just try not to think about it. The industry works very hard to maintain a high safety record and to protect us as we travel, but there is no way to prepare for everything. Traveler, Mike Wilson, learned that the hard way. During a flight that was leaving Denver in December of 2008, the plane slid off the runway and the right side engines erupted into flames. The passengers and crew miraculously escaped. Thirty eight people were injured but there were no deaths. Mike Wilson actually took to Twitter during the horrific crash. The tweet that went down in history was, “Holy Fucking Shit, I was just in a plane crash.” Although we can see the humor in the phrasing, it became one of the most well known tweets to come from an accident.
5. American Airlines plane fire – October, 2016 – O’Hare Airport
Fire and airplanes are the images and thoughts of nightmares. Luckily, this one occurred on the ground and everyone was able to get out of the plane. The explosion that caused the devastation caused a loud bang then a fireball that was seen on the right side of the plane. Terrified passengers evacuated the plane in what is being called “organized chaos” . Minor injuries were treated at local hospitals. Reports show that the explosion was caused by a tire blow out. As soon as the passengers had cleared the plane, they took to social media. One tweet that came out from a local news station was a short statement, but followed by a terrifying photo. @nbcchicago “airplane engine caught on fire at O’Hare!”
4. Pulse Nightclub shooting – Orlando, FL – June 12, 2016
As one of the most horrific mass shootings in US history, the attack at the Pulse nightclub became a scene of terror and nightmares for everyone there. The gunman, Omar Mateen, killed at least fifty people when he went on a rampage in the gay nightclub in Orlando. Tweets began to pour out as the terrified patrons did their best to hide from the barrage of bullets. The fear and shock is obvious, even in the short statements coming from the building. By the time the gunman was killed, more than fifty had been killed and another fifty three were injured. The grisly scene will stay fresh in the minds of the community that suffered it as well as the rest of the world that shared it with them through social media. One scared patron’s tweet sums up the insanity they suffered. John PA@lakecitymedman · 12 Jun 2016 “Can’t explain what happened. I was there with a nurse for her bday. Guy in vest starts shooting. She got hit in shoulder. We ran out back”
3. Boston Marathon Bombing – April 15, 2013
This nightmare took what many consider the ultimate showcase for runners. The New York City marathon and the Boston Marathon are attended by thousands of marathoners each year who have trained to run in some of the biggest races in the country. People come from all over the world to run and bring their families with them. What started out as a fun filled day of competitive running and celebration was turned into a scene of grisly sights. Two brothers, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, detonated two bombs 210 yards apart from each other near the finish line. Sixteen people were killed and hundreds more were injured during this massive explosion. Tweets were streaming during the chaos. People were tweeting to assure their families that they were okay. Chelsea Turner @chelseacturner “Holden and I were across the street from the second explosion at the Boston Marathon. We were thrown and have ringing ears but WE ARE OKAY!” 2:37 PM – 15 Apr 2013. The fear and relief are obvious.
2. London Terror Attack – March 22, 2017
London’s streets were turned into a scene from horror movies when a driver mowed down pedestrians near Parliament. The attack started when the driver of a 4×4 vehicle slammed into people on Westminster bridge before crashing into the railing near the Parliament. An officer was also fatally stabbed near Britain’s House of Commons before the assailant was shot. This is just one of the many terrorists attacks that have been taking place all over Europe. People are having to live in constant fear when they leave their homes. Social media has made it possible to share what is going on in real time. We are able to share the horror and fear of those that are in the middle of it. This chilling tweet and photo shows the horrible scene in grisly details. Tom Woods @tomwoods55 Mar 22 “‘In #London Terror Attack Today Wednesday, And Parliament MP Desperately Tried To Save Dying Police Officer…”
1. US Airways Flight 1549 – New York – January 15, 2009
In one of the most published plane crashes, pilot Chesley Sullenberger (known as Sully) along with Jeffrey Skiles, glided a passenger jet into the Hudson River. Shortly after its takeoff from LaGuardia, the plane collided with a flock of geese that damaged two engines. There was no way the damaged plane could be guided back to an airport, so Sully expertly guided the plane down for a water landing. Under his amazing guidance, the plane was brought down safely in the Hudson River, where every member of the crew and the passengers survived. Fifty five of the passengers were checked out at local hospitals but were then released. The first and most famous tweet and photo that came from this near fatal disaster turned miracle was from Janis Krums @jkrums “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.”
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