Looking for the Helpers: 5 Ways the Tech World Has Responded to the Boston Marathon Tragedy

Jonathan Crowe by

It’s been a tragic, frightening, and surreal week in Boston, overwhelming in so many ways. The immediate aftermath of chaos and confusion following the Marathon bombings has been slowly transitioning into something else now. Interspersed among the images and stories of pain and suffering have been inspiring images and stories of the best of us responding to the worst.

One message that has resonated and been repeated and shared over and over comes from a quote from Mister Rogers:

When I was a boy and 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.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

Looking for the Helpers

The outpouring of help and support in the wake of the horrific events in Boston on Monday has been remarkable. Here are five examples of how the tech world has responded — small, encouraging reminders of the good we’re capable of in the midst of (and in defiance of) all the bad.

1) Google Person Finder

In the confusion during the immediate aftermath of the bombings, many runners and spectators were separated from and unable to contact their loved ones. With cell phone service impacted, friends and family throughout the country were unable to reach them, as well.

As Jason Corrigan reports in an article for Search Engine Journal, Google responded by activating Google Person Finder, an open source web application the company originally developed following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

“After the two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon,” Corrigan writes, “Google Person Finder immediately began tracking over 5,000 lost individuals.” That allowed people like Kelly Manning of Saratoga Springs, NY, to track the whereabouts of her daughter Samantha following the explosions until she was finally able to connect with her over the phone.

2) Airbnb and HomeAway

Airbnb offers support for Boston Marathon victims

As Brian Patrick Eha reports for Entrepreneur.com, both peer-to-peer apartment-sharing platform Airbnb and vacation-rental company HomeAway set up web pages to help those stranded or in need of emergency accommodations find places to stay in Boston, while also waiving fees and encouraging Boston hosts to share their homes.

3) Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG)

Tugg Boston Marathon Fundraiser

Boston’s tech community (and others around the country) has rallied behind a fundraising effort by TUGG, which works with technology companies, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to volunteer and make grants to local nonprofits, and Fundraise.com to help support programs working with victims of the attacks.

The response to the campaign has been incredible. By early Wednesday morning over $100K had been donated, and as of this writing the total is over $150K. Click here to learn more, make a donation, and spread the word to others.

4) The Cambridge Innovation Center and Workbar

As Curt Woodward reports for Xconomy, both the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) and co-working space Workbar have offered space to local businesses in the Back Bay that have found themselves temporarily displaced due to office damage or road closures at the crime scene.

5) EvidenceUpload.org

There is no denying the anger, frustration, and fear knowing that the person or people who did this are still out there. As a community, we can try our best to heal and eventually we can move on, but we need answers. By this point, a suspect (or suspects) may have been identified, but Boston Police and the FBI have made it clear that they need any and all tips and evidence witnesses can provide.

According to Kyle Alspach, writing for the Boston Business Journal, the site EvidenceUpload.org has been launched by a handful of Boston-area startup entrepreneurs (including individuals at Appsembler, PostMob, and BetaLab) as a way to help witnesses to Monday’s bombings upload their mobile device images and video to investigating law enforcement officials more easily.

Personal Note

My wife works at Boston Medical Center. Over the past few days she has been amazed not only at the incredible poise, responsiveness, and coordination of the medical professionals, but also the poise, courage, and selflessness of the patients, themselves. Many have a long road of physical and emotional healing ahead of them, and yet one after another they have expressed how thankful they are of the support, how lucky they are that things weren’t worse, and they insist that doctors and staff should focus on the ones who are in worse condition and who need more help than them.

With that kind of reaction, “victims” seems like the wrong word. They are survivors. And somehow, remarkably, they are finding it within themselves to be helpers, too.

Do you know of other ways the tech world has responded in support for those impacted by the Boston Marathon tragedy? Share your notes and stories below.

Senior Content Manager