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Daughter of Drowning Victim: WhatsApp Killed My Father

The daughter of Yitzchok Rosenberg, one of the two men who tragically died yesterday on a Miami area beach, reportedly wrote the following open letter in which she relates that WhatsApp informed her of her father’s death – before it was even confirmed:

I was informed of my father’s death from a WhatsApp group.

I wake up in the morning and ask Siri, “What’s the weather today?” She replies, “Today will be partly cloudy with a high of 60 degrees.”

My day starts off just like every other day and nothing seems unusual.

At work, I usually keep my phone on silent so that I can get things done. At approximately 11:30 a.m., I see the other people in the office gathering around and talking quietly. Nothing unusual. At 11:45 a.m., I give a slight glance at my phone and I see that I have 68 unread messages from 9 different WhatsApp groups. That was my first sign that something usual is happening today.

I put my thumb at the key lock and go directly to WhatsApp. At that very second, my heart skipped a beat. My fingers froze. My eyes were rolling. I saw stars. All messages read: “BDE. At least three people dead in an apparent boat accident in Florida.” Every group that I am a member of had at least 10-15 messages with pictures and voice notes of how many people died, how and where, with full details.

As a family member, I did not know of a thing that had happened. All of a sudden, from reading a WhatsApp message, I was left without a father! A point-blank yasom!

I try calling my mother and of course there was no answer. I race out of the office and call my brother. There is an answer – the answer I never dreamed of hearing!

With a foggy mind and my blood ice cold, I rushed home and funeral arrangements were underway.

But I do want to take a few minutes to discuss the recklessness of WhatsApp groups. I feel that now might be the time for people to reconsider broadcasting and distributing news on WhatsApp.

The first messages started circling on WhatsApp at approximately 11:00 a.m. The messages read: “There was a fatal boat accident in Miami and three people are dead: Rosenberg, Parnes and Englander.”

Without hesitation, someone decided to write a message killing 3 people right then and there. And thousands of shares were followed within seconds.

At 11:00 o’clock, not one of them were confirmed dead! So instead of sharing messages to davenor say Tehilim for the critically injured, someone decided that he will get more shares on social media or will be looked at as a hero on WhatsApp because he was first with the news. So wrong on so many levels!

At the very first second I read the WhatsApp messages, I was hoping that those three were killed just like the two bochurim were killed in Kerestir last week. But thankfully those reports turned out to be false.

Sadly, the Miami story is true.

Right now, I have no voice. No mind. I am typing this message with tears.

This was without a doubt the hardest and worst day of my life. And the WhatsApp messages made it a lot worse and harder!

All I’m trying to say here is, when a tragedy strikes, don’t try to be a hero with sharing the news as fast as you can. Be a hero with knowing as many accurate details as you can. And never assume or make something up, because there’s always a family or families at stake.

I will never forget the first WhatsApp messages I read when I opened my phone. Make sure to never be the person who writes that message.

From this point on in life, I will never be caught by surprise again. Nothing can surprise me anymore.

B.Z.

15 Comments

  • 1. not true wrote:

    think about it her letter makes a lot of sense, but i dont believe she wrote it think about her father just died the body was not released and all she can think about is to write a whatsapp COME ON really!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 2. Anonymous wrote:

      Really?!are you going to judge a woman who just traumatically lost her father?!?you get to decide how she should be reacting??think before you comment…

  • 3. Please, let's prevent another! wrote:

    From CBS news article:

    When people think of dangers in the ocean, sharks may be the first thing that comes to mind (especially given this summer’s spate of shark attacks off North Carolina). But it turns out that one of the most dangerous things in the water is a rip current. According to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), more than 100 people nationwide die every year after getting caught in a rip current, and at least 80 percent of lifeguard rescues are due to rip currents.

    “Rip currents are fairly common because sandbars are constantly shifting and changing based on the weather,” Tom Gill, a spokesperson for USLA, told CBS News. “The ocean is such a dynamic environment. So you’ve got to be able to swim, you’ve got to have some survival skills.”

    What is a rip current?

    A rip current is a powerful channel of water that can move at speeds of up to eight feet per second. As the rip current moves away from the shoreline, it can drag even the strongest of swimmers with it.

    Summer health and safety: 5 mistakes you don’t want to make

    “The biggest misconception is that they actually pull people under, but they pull people out,” Gill said.

    Although rip currents are not easy to spot, some common characteristics of rip currents include a channel of water that is choppy and that appears in a churning motion, a line of sea foam or seaweed that is moving rapidly away from the shore, or a break in a pattern of waves coming towards the shore.

    And they don’t just happen in the ocean. According to USLA, “rip currents can occur at any surf beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.”

    What to do if you’re caught in a rip current

    The first and most important thing to remember if you are caught in a rip current is not to panic.

    “Lots of times people panic and try to fight the rip current and exhaust themselves and go underwater,” Gill said.

    To get out of the rip current, he advises swimming sideways, parallel to the beach, until you get out of it and then continue to swim diagonally towards the shore. If you can’t get out of the rip current this way, float on your back or tread water until you can. You should also wave your arms and call out for help.

    Practice safe swimming

    You should always swim in an area with lifeguards. Patrolled areas post surf hazard warning flags or rip current educational signs so swimmers know about surf conditions and rip current activity. In addition, NOAA’s National Weather Service issues surf zone forecasts to help lifeguards and local officials determine if the water is safe for swimming.

    The U.S. Swim Schools Association urges parents to review rip current safety measures with their children and introduce kids to the lifeguard in the area before they go into the water.

    “It’s always good to check in with the lifeguard when you arrive at the beach,” Gill said. “If you see red flags flying, check in and see what the restrictions are.”
    .
    © 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    • 4. Exactly! wrote:

      Wow, as a public school student in Florida, this was basic learning almost every year and it saves lives. SO important to review

  • 6. no one special wrote:

    To #2: It is unusual that under the stated circumstances, an orphaned daughter would have time to type and upload a letter.
    I thought before I wrote this.

  • 7. Sorry, but that's wacky wrote:

    This is kind of stupid. Ok, fine, she lost somebody, and he blames…. WhatsApp? If she had heard on the radio she would blame the radio. So what’s the point? Don’t share news, don’t convey information? Lame article

  • 9. Cold winter wrote:

    To the shmuts above how about putting yourself in her shoes and then tell us how we should notify you of your parents passing I do not think you want to find out from what’s app

  • 10. You are on whatsapp wrote:

    You are on whatsapp and yet complain about it! If you don’t ant to be part of the “latest news”, then turn it off yourself! But instead you are following the latest whatsapp about OTHERS until it hits you.

    • 11. Now I know wrote:

      Now I know what it is like to “share” the “latest” news. We all do it, each one of us does it, yet we need to take a step back and think about it.

  • 12. American Jee wrote:

    No one is saying that’s it’s not tragic for the girl to have this happen to her, but it is absolutely STRANGE for her to be texting her message at such a time.

  • 13. Anonymous wrote:

    We have to accept this is the way information is transmitted. Unfotunatley not all info is good. Can’t blame technology. If they has read the what’s app messages in private it may not ha be been so bad. I think in this case there was an element of public humiliation to have to receive the news in public. Some things are unoreventable

  • 14. Mother, grandmother, human person. wrote:

    BDE. I find it absolutely incredible and shocking. I’m referring to the complete and total lack of empathy, respect and just common decency of so many smart alecs who continued their cruel diatribes even though the young traumatised woman is here and part of the conversation. Don’t you have hearts, decency, human feelings, courtesy? Really think about the impact of your cruel words next time you’re at a levaya for someone you love. Think about your nastiness when one day you sit shivah. Think about how you are making a person feel when her father just died..

    • 15. Another mommy, bubby & human being wrote:

      I am horrified at the callousness of these people. It is beyond belief & since this is a Chabad forum I am even more disgusted that Lubavitchers can say these things. How hardhearted can you get? I would like to be dan l’kaf zchut but quite honestly, I can’t think of any reason that can excuse such cruelty. And then you beit the Eibishter for Moshiach? Hypocrites.

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