Cell phones, Twitter offer vital channels as another mass shooting unfolds

Students texted messages of love to their parents—and uploaded chilling video—as a gunman stalked the halls of a Florida high school. Officials, meanwhile, tweeted updates to the public.

Amid horrific chaos, students sent messages of love—along with crucial information about the shootings unfolding in their Florida high school.

A gunman, believed to be former student Nikolas Cruz, pulled a fire alarm Wednesday afternoon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before opening fire on students evacuating the building. Seventeen people were killed, and others remain in hospital care.

As school and government officials tried to gauge the situation and offer accurate information to the public, students and parents turned to technology to contact loved ones and share their raw emotions. Cell phones proved a particularly crucial tool.

The New York Times wrote:

Like many school districts, Broward County’s allows high school students to bring cellphones to school, so long as they don’t interfere with class work. On Wednesday, many students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School held onto their phones for dear life as a 19-year-old gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the grounds and fatally shot 17 people. They used them to keep their terrified parents informed about what was happening. And they used them to keep a visual record of an awful crime.

Students texted their parents and one another to give updates and send messages of love.

The Washington Post reported:

[Mackenzie Hill] texted a photo to her parents, showing her hiding under a desk, tears falling down her face.

“I love you guys so much,” she texted, saying this could be the last time she speaks with them. Above all else, Mackenzie thought about her twin sister, a floor below her, back in the AP Psychology classroom. The shooter was on her floor, Meghan texted her.

“I love you,” Meghan wrote in text messages that Mackenzie would later delete, to erase all memories of the nightmare. “Please be safe.”

Video of the scene made its way onto Twitter and other platforms as students shared their fear.

The New York Times continued:

Some of the alarming videos of the mass shooting were passed around via text message, while others quickly made their way to Twitter, where they triggered “sensitive material” warnings.

One video showed officers with guns drawn, rushing into a classroom full of cowering students. The officers told students to put up their hands. One officer bellowed: “Put your phones away! Put your phones away!”

A Twitter account for the Broward County sheriff asked the public to stay away from the scene:

The account told concerned readers to follow its tweets for updates:

It also tweeted statements from Sheriff Scott Israel:

It boosted the message from the FBI asking that any video captured by students or staff on mobile devices be uploaded:

An official Twitter account for Broward County schools shared the news:

It continued to offer updates throughout the day:

Some tweeted their distress at being unable to reach loved ones and friends:

CNN shared the story of a concerned parent looking for her child:

“This is Jamie Guttenberg a student a Stoneman Douglas High. If you see her please have her call her parents ASAP. Praying for all of the families and kids,” Michelle Wiseman Kredi posted on Facebook.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted his knowledge of the situation in English and Spanish:

He also tagged other agencies that were responding to the situation, demonstrating a coordinated response:

Some attempted to get Twitter to take down accounts spreading misinformation:

Given that 30 mass shootings (four or more victims) have occurred in the first 45 days of 2018—following 346 mass shootings last year—a crisis response plan that goes beyond PR and reputational damage seems wise. How has your organization prepared for the unthinkable?

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