April 15, 2013: How Twitter Informed Us

Medical workers aid injured people at the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Two explosions shattered the euphoria of the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, David L Ryan)
On April 15, 2013, two explosions shattered the euphoria of the Boston Marathon finish line, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts.
David L Ryan/The Boston Globe

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In the early hours following the tragic events of April 15, Twitter was a powerful source of information. In the days that followed, Twitter continued to play an important role—though often as a source of misinformation.

The first bomb exploded on Boylston Street near the Boston Marathon finish line at 2:49 pm.

The very first tweets weren’t the most informative.

While it was immediately clear something had happened, it wasn’t clear exactly what.

According to Twitter’s Media Blog, “The Boston Globe normally tweets around 40 times a day. Over the next few hours on April 15, they sent over 150 Tweets.”

Within minutes, victims were being transported to area hospitals.

Photos began to emerge of the explosions.

Runners who hadn’t completed the race were soon stopped.

The race was canceled.

Boston Police confirmed that an explosion had taken place.

Additional information about the precise location of the explosions soon followed.

All off-duty police officers were ordered to report for duty.

What had happened remained unclear. Confusion and fear ran rampant.

Numbers of injured soon were reported, and quickly rose as information became available.

Meanwhile, at the JFK Library, a fire broke out, causing speculation that the events might be linked.

With cell phone service spotty at best, meeting points were set up to reunite runners and their friends and families.

The Boston Police Department was quickly using social media to gather information about the attack and was seeking anyone with video of the explosions.

A no-fly zone was imposed over the area.

Law enforcement encouraged runners and spectators to leave the area.

Drivers were told by police to “evacuate the city.”

The Boston Globe confirmed that Martin Richard was among the victims.

SWAT teams were positioned at area hospitals where bombing victims were being treated.

Street closures were put in place around the Back Bay.

The Boston Police Department announced that the FBI had taken over the investigation into the bombings.

Three deaths were confirmed.

Email at sargent@boston.com or follow@lilsarg.