So many times when major news stories break in the world, the question that is always asked later is, “Where were you when….?”
Interestingly enough, as I heard about the new of Osama bin Laden being captured and killed last night, I was surprised to actually hear about this through a tweet of Tim Gwynn who obviously heard it through other avenues on social networking sites. What was different about this event for myself was that I really followed the updates not only through watching the news on television, but by reading and viewing links shared by so many on Twitter.
Immediately after the press conference by President Obama, the New York Times released an article on how the news leaked out before any word was official. Things were moving so quickly and it was an interesting that so many people were not only sharing information, but they were sharing a range of emotions, which is obviously very normal in different situations. People sharing sorrow for the loss of so many lives, people sharing some uneasiness with the jubilation, and even some people sharing humour. It was unbelievable watching history being updated in real time
I thought back to September 11, 2001 and what a weird and upsetting day that was. I remember that I was in a brand new school, starting my third year of teaching, and a secretary that I barely knew let me know that the World Trade Center was being attacked. I had no idea what that was or even where it was located. We were clamoring to find a television to watch the news, and many staff and students watched in the library as the events unfolded in horror. I remember watching the videos of the horrible day on the Internet, but always associate that media with YouTube which wasn’t even invented at the time and have no idea where I could have found those videos. Now when many of our students hear news like this, they find it in a much different way:
What I found powerful about last night, was not only the news of what happened, but it was the willingness of others to share stories and feelings openly through Twitter, while also creating that human connection to the events of last night and ten years earlier. Watching the news gives you one viewpoint, and they always share the “human” stories that make the news meaningful. Actually hearing from people though that lost family members though that I now know really moved me.
The world has changed so much in ten years and the way we, and others, get information has changed significantly. I was overwhelmed by emotion last night as I got caught in a stream of information and stories being shared about an event that caught many people off guard. Thinking back to the question, “Where were you when you heard that Bin Laden had been killed?”, I know my answer is that I was on Twitter. Learning is so much more than literacy and numeracy, and it doesn’t only happen in schools. That was confirmed again last night. What I really believe that when it is possible, face-to-face is always better, but it is sometimes amazes me how much power there can be in those 140 characters.