When Horrible Events Meet Modern Technology – A Story of Love and Support

Fifteen years ago, on the eve of his 21st birthday, my would-be brother-in-law died in a sudden car crash. Both he and the driver of the other vehicle involved were killed in a head-on collision. His mom (my soon-to-be-mother-in-law) had a neighbor who worked as a State Highway Patrol Officer. Within moments of the crash, this neighbor, happened to learn who died in the crash and was able to break the terrifying news to my mother-in-law, personally, compassionately, and in the privacy of her own home. While nothing could prepare my mother-in-law for such tragedy, she has been eternally grateful for her neighbor and the love and concern he showed that day.

Contrast that private experience with the nightmare that became Caran Johnson’s living reality yesterday afternoon. Ms. Johnson is a local celebrity of sorts to those of us in Vancouver who are active on Twitter. Under the Twitter handle @ScanCouver, she often “tweets” the news and other important events around town. I have been one of her “followers” for some time. Yesterday in an ironic and heartbreaking chain of tweets, her Twitter page became a public forum for a painfully private event. Like many car crashes before, Ms. Johnson joined a twitter conversation about a horrendous two-car collision in Vancouver. She realized the collision occurred along the path her husband was taking home, and that he was late, and not answering his phone. She nervously sought information from other social media users until her last tweet confirmed her greatest fears.

caran-johnson

“It’s him. he died.”

I believe KATU news was the first to report on the tragedy. Within hours there was a tremendous outpouring of support on twitter and beyond as the story spread across the internet, and, as of this morning across the world.

I don’t normally choose to write about issues beyond what we can do to “make safe” our community. I don’t know what caused yesterday’s crash, but it seems Ms. Johnson’s husband may have suffered from some sort of sudden medical condition. I don’t want to speak to that. I don’t want to speak of fault or to point fingers.

Today, in the new “future” that is our present, news travels faster than ever before. We learn of events, often, as they’re happening. Today, through the wonders of the internet and social media, we can place ourselves anywhere in the world. We can, electronically speaking, be there for Ms. Johnson, to lend a shoulder for her to cry on and to offer words of encouragement and support.

I don’t pretend to know Ms. Johnson, I follow her on Twitter. I don’t pretend to understand what she went through yesterday, what she is undoubtedly enduring today, and what she will surely experience tomorrow. My heart breaks for her. Maybe, in a very public way, Twitter has offered her the very private support she needs now. Maybe all this “support” is something she’d rather not be dealing with today. What I do know is this:

After my brother-in-law died, my mother-in-law met the widow of the other driver killed in the crash. They offered support to one another and expressed their love and concern for the losses each felt. That happened privately and I know it has been tremendously therapeutic to them over the years. They still meet regularly, on the anniversary of the crash to catch up and offer their love to one another.

Today, Ms. Johnson and Benjamin Shelley (@ben253sounders), the son of the other driver involved in yesterday’s collision have turned to each other for support through the power of Twitter:

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Earlier this morning, Ms. Johnson pleaded for “help”, for relief, from the reporters who were “at her place.”  Mr. Shelley, understandingly, offered to relieve her by suggesting she invite the press to the hospital to check on the status of his mother.

In my line of work this kind of love and compassion is a rarity. Understand that my job is to hold people accountable for their carelessness and I work hard for my clients to get them the compensation to which they are entitled. But, I strive to always to do so in a way that is understanding and civil. My best clients are those who can do so as well and who don’t get blindsided by hate and revenge. Occasionally a client will hold bitterness and contempt for those who caused their injury. While I understand this desire, it does little for them by way of healing or moving on with their life.

Today I am grateful for modern technology that allows us to express our thoughts and our prayers in a public way that allows for private comfort. Yesterday’s crash was a tragedy. Today’s support is nothing short of a miracle.

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