We bet you never imagined that Facebook would turn out to be the hero when it came to rescuing people trapped in the rubble of the Haiti earthquake. Neither did Stéphane Bruno.
The day after the tragedy the Haitian IT consultant happened to notice an SOS message appear on the Facebook widget on his Android phone.
"I would never have thought of going to Facebook in the middle of this chaos," he said. He had been working most of the night, helping to rescue members of his wife's family who had been trapped in the rubble.
But since he has the Facebook widget on the home screen of his phone, he happened to see a status update that a friend had posted, relaying an SOS message from three people who were trapped and needed help.
Bruno had already been in contact with Steve Huter, a friend in Oregon in the US who worked with him earlier in the year to build Haiti's Internet Exchange Point.
Huter, a project manager at the Network Startup Resource Center, was remotely helping to check on the health of Haiti's internet backbone.
Bruno decided to text Huter about the three people who were trapped.
As luck would have it, Huter had recently been contacted by the US State Department to help out with a project assisting Haiti in developing its wireless spectrum policies.
"Through that I had some good relationships with key people at State," Huter said.
"When Stéphane sent me the message, my first instinct was to call them."
Huter reached one of his contacts at the State Department on his mobile phone and explained the situation.
His contact said the US Marines were just setting up at the Port-Au-Prince airport and might be able to help.
Bruno collected more details about where the trapped people were and sent it to Huter, who relayed the information to his contact at the State Department, who in turn forwarded it to the Marines on the ground.
Thus began a circuitous chain of text and email messages, originating with trapped and injured people in Haiti, passing through several hands in the US and ultimately reaching Marines on the ground in the earthquake-torn country.
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