The following message was submitted to YWN by a family member of one of the victims in yesterday’s drowning in Miami Beach:
I was informed of my fathers death from a WhatsApp group.
I woke up in the morning and asked Siri what’s the weather today. She replies, today will be partly cloudy with a high of 60 degrees. My day starts off just like every other day and nothing seems unusual.
At work I usually keep my phone on silent so I can get things done. At approximately 11:30 am I see the other people in the office gathering around and talking quietly. Nothing unusual. At 11:45 am I give a slight glance at my phone and I see that I have 68 unread messages from 9 different WhatsApp groups. That was my first sign that something usual is happening today.
I put my thumb at the key lock and go directly to WhatsApp. At that very second my heart skipped a beat. My fingers froze. My eyes were rolling. I saw stars. All messages read ‘BDE at least three people dead in an apparent boat accident in Florida’. Every group that I am a member of had at least 10-15 messages with pictures and voice notes of how many people died, how and where with full details.
Me as a family member however, did not know of a thing that had happened. And all of a sudden, from reading a WhatsApp message, I was left without a father! A point blank Yusim!
I try calling my mother and of course no answer. I race out of the office and call my brother. And yes there is an answer. The answer I never hoped or dreamed of ever hearing!
With a foggy mind and my blood ice cold I rushed home, and funeral arrangements were underway.
But, I do want to take a few minutes to discuss the recklessness from WhatsApp groups. I feel that now might be the time that people might reconsider broadcasting and distributing news on WhatsApp.
The first messages started circling WhatsApp at approximately 11:00 o’clock am. The messages read ‘There was a fatal boat accident in Miami and three people are dead, Rosenberg, Parnes and Englander.’
Without hesitation someone decided to write a message killing 3 people right then and there. And thousands of shares were followed within seconds.
At 11:00 o’clock am, not one of them were confirmed dead! So instead of sharing messages to Daven or say Tehilim for the critically injured. Someone decided he will get more shares on social media or will be looked at as a hero on WhastApp because he was first with the news. So wrong on so many levels!
At the very first second I read the WhatsApp messages I was hoping that those three have been killed just like the two Bucherim were killed in Kerestier last week. But thankfully those reports turned out to be false!
Sadly the Miami story is true.
In the mean time someone decided to share a picture on WhatsApp of a stranded boat claiming that this is the boat the three were sailing in. And they had some kind of accident. Number one that boat was from a different and old story and number two they weren’t on a boat at all.
Right now, I have no voice. No mind. I am typing this message with tears.
This was without a doubt the hardest and worst day of my life. And the WhatsApp messages made it a lot worse and harder!
All I’m trying to say here is, when a tragedy strikes, don’t try to be a hero with sharing the news as fast as you can. Be a hero with knowing as much accurate details as you can. And NEVER assume or make something up. Because there’s always a family or families at stake.
I will never forget the first WhatsApp messages I read when I opened my phone. Make sure to never be the person who writes that message.
From this point on in life I will never be caught by surprise again. Nothing can surprise me anymore. (B.Z.)
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)