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Internet’s best, Internet’s worse: Livetweeting a death report in Kabul

January 17, 2014

I watched this unfold on Twitter a few minutes ago.

Tweeting a death Kabul

A suicide bombing in a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul killed 14 people. No list of casualties were given. (A little afterwards the news informed us that four UN workers might be in the casualties, but civilians were not in the “breaking news” follow-up reports).

The owner’s daughter, Mona Hamade, studies in Cambridge in the UK – and was naturally terribly worried for her father. After failing to reach anyone by phone, she turned to Twitter and started messaging journalists on site. They were very helpful and starting asking one another – even using the short-lived hashtag #FindKamelHamadeh.

Short-lived, because it wasn’t long until someone replied, informing Ms. Hamade that her father had apparently been killed in the blast.

Watching this unfold on Twitter was a strange testament to everything that’s great and gruesome about the internet. Great because Ms. Hamade was able to seek news at warp speed, and because people she doesn’t know stepped up and offered help.

And gruesome because we could all watch all of this unfold, live and uber-publicly.

And there’s (another) kicker. The journalist who replied that her father had seemingly passed (see last tweet in the compiled screenshot above) did not @ mention her properly (the “I” pronoun got attached to her name). As such she wasn’t pinged for having received a mention.

And since I saw the tweet a minute after it was sent, there’s a good chance I, and possibly hundreds of others, may have read the message addressed to her, telling her about the death of her father, before she did.

I could over-analyse the significance of this event on reporting and news-gathering and dissemination and so on (and I know some will very soon), but I’m just going to post this and literally going outside for air.

Sincere condolences to Mona Hamade and all the families of the victims.

(Screenshot: these are just a few tweets I selected to give a timeline. There were many exchanges of people attempting to locate Mr. Hamadeh.)

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Courtney Body permalink
    January 18, 2014 11:37 am

    That was such a horrible, heartbreaking experience. I knew before she did. She and others were asking me for information.. how to report that knowing she was “there?”? What are the rules? It’s was horrible. Heartbreaking.

    • January 18, 2014 12:02 pm

      It is indeed an extremely tragic event – and there are really no rules for it. imho, I think you and everyone else who helped pass on the message did exactly what you should have.
      I think I understand what you mean by “there” – we never report stories or cite names of victims thinking that the person’s child might be reading. But sometimes they are. The code by which families are notified first before information is made public breaks down in the absence of proper institutions offering support to the families – only solution then is to report and inform, I suppose.
      Heartbreaking. And humbling.
      Thanks for your comment Courtney.

      • Tina Hamadeh permalink
        January 21, 2014 2:37 pm

        Hi Mohamad – thank you :) we are happy he is in a better place! This is life and we hope all injustice in this world will end!

  2. January 18, 2014 3:36 pm

    Courtney, you just are doing the best you can. She was asking you for news and although you knew before she did, if you were able to pass that along, you were helping her. False hope is also hearbreaking. I’m so sorry that you, Kamal and all of the others killed and wounded had to go through this.

  3. Sarah permalink
    January 18, 2014 4:54 pm

    May G-d comfort her and her family. This is heart-breaking. But it is a microcosm of all the war and death and tragedy going on now — and if it serves any purpose, it is to humanize those losses and realize that there are millions of daughters (and sons) looking for their fathers after bombings, and millions of parents looking for their children, and their grief and heartbreak is every bit as wrenching as Mona’s. Would that our “world leaders” could see the pain their policies encourage.

  4. January 20, 2014 11:05 am

    I can only agree with the last comment. Perhaps if we put names and faces on the statistics that swamp our media something positive can come out of it.
    You wrote this report in a very sensitive way and raised many thought-provoking issues. Thank you.

  5. Tina Hamadeh permalink
    January 21, 2014 7:30 am

    Courtney-my friend, it’s Mona here – Kamal’s daughter. We owe you nothing but a lot of thanks for helping out to find out about our father’s fate and we are sorry you had to go through this. It gave us comfort more than anything that there was at least some sort of news and for that we thank you again. Stay safe and hope all this will one day end. Regards from Beirut.

    • January 21, 2014 8:56 am

      Mona, if you get this, my most sincere condolences. I cannot begin to imagine. I’m deeply sorry you had to go through this.

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