This is a guest post by Anastacia Visneski.
In March we lost 4 shipmates in the crash of CG6535. I wanted to wait a little while before posting this so to be sure it wasn’t anger and grief talking. Having given it some time, I think a discussion about social media when it comes to the loss of a shipmate needs to be had.
The day of the crash, a friend of mine expressed to me his anger over finding so many people posting on the Facebook page of one of the lost crew within only a few hours of the crash. I was- sadly- not terribly surprised that some people were posting that quickly.
Let me say it straight: Just because you, as a Coast Guard member, might have knowledge of who has died in a Coast Guard accident… posting on their Facebook page within a couple of hours of the crash that ‘you are going to miss them’ not only is a violation of policy, but makes you a bit of a jerk.
Coast Guard Public Affairs has a policy of holding names of members for 24 hours for next of kin (NOK) notification. Why? It is the time it takes to get the right people in place to tell the family members of the lost, to make sure they have the support they need from their Coast Guard family, to make sure those that need to know hear it from someone in person, someone in uniform, someone trained to break tragic news and provide support in the storm of grief that follows.
I am not going to say that grief and wanting to express your grief isn’t natural. I know that when the crash happened I was utterly desperate to find out who had been onboard. I did in fact find out before the NOK 24hr timeline and I was heartbroken. That being said, I did not go posting about it anywhere. As a matter of fact I waited until it had been released in the media and I had seen it in print on public sites before I said anything. Why? Not because of policy (though that played a part)… but out of respect.
So… to those of you posting on the Facebook pages of the missing members… who are you posting to? The deceased will not be reading that you are “going to miss” them (btw, the search was on and they were still only missing not declared deceased when many of these messages appeared). No, the people who are going to see your little heartfelt messages are the member’s girlfriend, or their cousin, their brother, heck possibly their Mom.
Is social media how you’d want to find out you lost someone you loved? That the one who holds your heart, that is your very joy, your everything… is dead? All because some person you don’t know wanted to be the first to post on their Facebook page? Is it a race to prove to everyone that you “knew first?” Can’t you wait and find a more respectful way of expressing your grief?
And now we have lost two more members in a shooting. I implore all of you to really think before you post. Are you violating policy… and more importantly are you breaking someone’s heart? If you really care about the lost crew member, if you really are their friend… it is your responsibility now as a member of the Coast Guard Family to look out for their loved ones. That is a far better way of showing them you care than posting on a website that their deceased loved ones will never be able to read.