A bomb exploded in my neighborhood last night on a sidewalk I walk every morning with my wife and two sons. We’re all okay. The boys are oblivious, thankfully, but my wife and I are a little shook. I wanted to get down a couple thoughts:
1. Breaking news is not only borderline useless, it can be downright harmful in a crisis situation like this. Any useful, reliable information we got last night was from the official Twitter feeds of the Austin Police Department and Austin-Travis County EMS.
At one point, I watched a Facebook livestream by local news station KXAN, which was literally just a camera pointed at lights and sirens while a reporter asked witnesses for personal information offscreen. The people in the chat were sharing the phone numbers they heard, joking about calling the witness themselves to get the lowdown. Later, KXAN reported that the neighborhood was going to be evacuated, which was inaccurate and caused unnecessary alarm.
We’ve received text alerts and phone calls on our landline over the past 12+ hours to stay home indoors. Nothing other than those official alerts has been crucial for keeping our family calm or safe.
In the future, if I’m in a situation like this, I plan on making sure my crew is safe, then tuning into official sources until things calm down.
2. Our neighborhood NextDoor has proven to have all the good and bad features of any social media site. The main thread in which neighbors are sharing information was posted by a neighbor immediately after she went outside and was told to get back in the house because there was a bomb. Other threads have popped up, but the software gives you no way to combine threads, so things have gotten chaotic. Posts there have cycled between being helpful (“An FBI agent came to the door and told me…”) to selfish (“When can I leave for work?”) to alarmist (“My guns are loaded!”) to agenda-pushing (“It’s time to go back to a gated community!”) Regardless of the spirit in which they were posted, I’m not sure I could call any of the posts there absolutely essential, save for the official messages. Reading most of the posts, if anything, just made me more anxious and confused. It’s so tempting to seek out and share more information, but more information doesn’t necessarily help.
3. Nature doesn’t care. It’s such a beautiful day outside right now. The neighborhood is still officially locked down, so we missed our morning walk. I walked the perimeter of our house, checked our cars and every corner, and then we went into the backyard and my youngest and I sat in the hammock with the sun on our faces while my wife did a little gardening. The police chopper circled around and around, and at one point, the hawk that flies through the neighborhood seemed to chase it. Life goes on and we’ll go on.