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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Social Media (12/01/11)

TITLE: Unofficial Notification
By Deborah Rampona Oliver
12/14/11


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Joanne finished emptying the dishwasher

(her second load of the day) and

carried her coffee to the computer

desk. Fifteen minutes until the kids’

bus arrived. Fifteen minutes to catch

up on Face Book and press the pause

button in her life. This part of the

day, the time when school let out until

bedtime, was always the hardest. Part

of her kept expecting Jeremy to stride

through the door, her white knight and

the boys’ hero, to save her from the

emptiness of his absence.


Joanne logged on and posted her

status. “It’s a good thing coffee is a

bean, because I’m well on my way to

drinking my five servings of vegetables

today.” She heard a computerized chime

and saw an IM from Jeremy.

“Please pray. I can’t talk about it,

but it’s been a rough day. Turn on the

news. Hug the boys and tell them daddy

misses them.”


Joanne quickly responded, “You got it

sweetie. Anything I can do?”

The connection was lost and she was

offered the opportunity to send him a

message. Instead, she reached for the

remote and pressed “on.” As the screen

illuminated, Joanne saw a red ticker

across the bottom of CNN’s screen.

“BREAKING NEWS: IED kills four

soldiers in Afghanistan.” A reporter

with a spray on tan and beautiful

porcelain veneers adopted an expression

of concern as she gave a ‘report’ of

the blast.


Joanne rolled her eyes, “As if you give

a rip!” she muttered. Just then, her

iphone buzzed with an incoming text:

“Can I come over and hang out?” Her

friend Jenny who had endured the same

grueling deployments with her and knew

the loneliness as well as anyone was on

her way over.


In the background, Joanne felt the bass

reverberations of the school bus as it

entered the neighborhood. She got up

and went to the door. Their little

home was right at an intersection and

she always double checked before the

boys crossed the road. They tumbled

off the bus laughing and jostling one

another in the daily race to reach home

first. Joanne greeted the boys with a

kiss and gave them permission to watch

cartoons BEFORE they did homework; a

rare treat indeed. They were off

without a second look.


Joanne sat down at the computer again

to log out when she noticed a new post

on her wall. “Tell Jenny we’re SO

SORRY about David!” Her stomach

plunged and she immediately felt the

world closing in on her, suffocating.

Fear and disbelief prickled throughout

her body! Nervously, Joanne focused on

the news again. That idiot reporter

had ‘scooped’ all of the other stations

and was releasing the names of the

soldiers killed by the IED! When

David’s name left the glossed lips of

the reporter, Joanne felt the urge to

vomit.


Dear Jesus PLEASE let this be a

mistake! Oh God, how could you let

this happen? Knowing that other

families in the battalion would be

checking her status, Joanne quickly

deleted their post and she changed her

own status: “In consideration of our

fallen soldiers and their precious

families, please do not release or

discuss personal information until

official notification is made! She

quickly checked Jenny’s wall as well.

No condolences, yet.


All of a sudden, Joanne realized that

social media had the capacity to make a

person feel like the loneliest person

in the world. Other people without the

right to intrude were now privy to

intimate details of her best friend’s

life before she could even be properly

informed! How could she protect Jenny

when David’s death had already gone

viral? Was the report even accurate?


A honk pierced the shock as Jenny

pulled into the driveway. She stared

at her friend’s beat up minivan and

idly wondered if that reporter would

get a raise; wondered if she’d go out

and buy a Mercedes in triumph. Would

she care about the impact of her story?


As Jenny approached the house laughing

with her “Littles,”(that’s what Jenny

always called her children) Joanne felt

relief and guilt: relief that it

wasn’t Jeremy who died and guilt

because she was certain Jeremy was

alive. She braced herself and

whispered a prayer, “Dear Jesus help me

to be your hands and feet.” Joanne

stuck a smile on her face that was

every bit as plastic as the reporter's

and braced herself, sincerely hoping

that notifications would be made before

the local news got ahold of the story.


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This article has been read 281 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Hiram Claudio12/15/11
What a powerful commentary! I like the way you lead us slowly into the MC's world and showed potential pitfalls of social media. I was so struck by the line "How could she protect Jenny when David’s death had already gone viral?" That line just spoke to me about or intimate pieces of information becoming public domain in a blink of an eye.

This was very well written and sobering. Well done!
Camille (C D) Swanson 12/15/11
Simply riveting! I was pulled into this story immediately. Oh my goodness-it yanked on my heart strings and made my heart race.

I know first hand about the "press leaking info" prior to families being informed. Years ago my uncle was killed and I picked up our newspaper and read it in shock! So this story was close to my heart.

Thank you. God Bless you~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/17/11
Wow! You did a great job with this. My heart ached as I read. My daughter learned a friend had died in a car accident win FB. This is a great message and spot on topic.
Martha Black12/19/11
This left me breathless with insight into the lives of those who can at any moment receive the dreaded notification of the loss of their loved one. In this story, the pain was secondhand, but it was pain nevertheless. Awesome job!
Tina Leonard12/21/11
I can really relate to this. Last month while I was at work, I got a text message status update from facebook from a dear friend of mine. Said "Today God took another angel, David you will be extremely missed by all who loved you".

Anxiously I logged onto facebook on the work computer, which we are not supposed to do, but I was in shock. Come to find out a dear friend of ours who we had been close to our whole lives had passed away unexpectedly that day. It was a horrible loss for all of us and not a way that I would have chosen to find out.
Hiram Claudio12/29/11
This really was a wonderful piece of writing. Congratulations Deborah on your 2nd place finish!
Camille (C D) Swanson 12/29/11
Congratulations! Nicely done, great job. God Bless~