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Twitter carries words of comfort in aftermath of Boston tragedy

April 16, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Comedian Patton Oswalt received praise for the comforting words he expressed in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy.
Comedian Patton Oswalt received praise for the comforting words he expressed… (Steven Dewall / Comedy Central )

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon explosions, people turned to social media to express their outrage, console one another and share images of the tragedy.

The calming words of one Presbyterian minister could be heard above the din: that of Fred Rogers, the late host of the long-running PBS children's television show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."

"When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

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Comedian Patton Oswalt shared Mr. Rogers' words with his 1.2 million Twitter followers. His poignant  reaction to the unfolding events in Boston was widely praised for offering comfort to people seeking solace in the wake of the senseless act.

"You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out," Oswalt wrote in a Facebook post that was also circulated on Twitter. "This is a giant planet, and we're lucky to live on it, but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness. But the vast majority stands against that darkness ..."

Tweets using such terms as "donate," "volunteer" and "help" surged to a 180-day peak, as people used Twitter to discuss how they could assist the victims and heralded the first responders and others on the scene, according to Twitter data.

Indeed, photos of former New England Patriot lineman Joe Andruzzi carrying a woman shortly after the two bomb blasts were circulated on Twitter.

Twitter mentions of the Boston Marathon surpassed 2 million on the day of the incident, spiking from about 500,000 on the day before the storied race, according to Topsy, a firm that analyzes trends in social media. 

Filmmaker Michael Moore circulated an article from the Atlantic magazine, observing the sad irony that the final mile of the Boston Marathon had been dedicated to the Newtown Elementary School victims.

One media outlet came in for criticism for failing to show the proper circumspection on the day of the incident. The New York Times, for example, came in for Twitter fire, after Tweeting news of its Pulitzer Prize wins during the unfolding chaos in Boston.

One celebrity learned how difficult it is to strike the right tone in the wake of such an event.

Rihanna Tweeted a provocative Instagram photo of a man comforting a woman on the sidewalk at the scene of the first explosion, along with the two thoughts expressing her sympathy: heartbreaking #PrayforBoston.

That spurred some 12,600 comments from people debating whether such a Tweet was distasteful.


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