The lesson 1 Twitter hashtag can teach us after the L.A. school bomb threat.

Yesterday, thousands of children and teens in Los Angeles woke up to the news that school was closed.

But the news didn't carry with it the normal glee of an unexpected snow day or an early closing before a holiday.



Los Angeles city school buses. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school system in the country, was shut down because of a bomb threat.

Buses that had already started on their routes returned to parking lots, sitting empty for the day. Some students who hadn't heard the news in time arrived on foot or by car with friends only to discover abandoned campuses and their classmates being sent back home. Over 900 public schools and 187 public charter schools in the system halted operations, leaving 640,000 students with no place to go.

What kind of warning caused this type of mass response?

Details are still unclear, but the threat arrived by email to several school board members and suggested that many schools within the district were being targeted. It mentioned backpacks and packages being left on campus. City officials in L.A., not wanting to take any chances in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting, reacted swiftly and cautiously. More than 2,700 officers were dispatched for walk-throughs at more than 1,500 closed school sites in searches for explosives or weapons.

The same threat was also issued to the New York City public school system, but officials there didn't think it was credible enough to close schools.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

Around 12:30 p.m., the threat was determined to be "a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities," according to the House Intelligence Committee. But by then, L.A., having already made a difficult choice, watched chaos ensue.

Many parents had been forced to find alternative child care or miss work (likely an unthinkable option for many low-wage workers). Some parents were left looking for their children they had sent off to school that morning. Traffic was gridlocked.

And if that weren't enough, students who depend on school meal programs were facing a day without breakfast or lunch.

That is, until concerned L.A. residents went into action.

By mid-morning, hundreds of people were using the hashtag #LALunch to ask restaurants to offer free meals to the more than three-quarters of the district's students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

And some restaurants happily obliged:

This swift and thoughtful effort reminded me of a comforting principle that we've seen play out time and time again:

Most people hope that one day love will conquer the fear caused by violence and prevent these acts from occurring in the first place.

But love is also there in the meantime. It's what we can turn to —and practice — when the fear disrupts us.

When threats and violence make us uncomfortable and shake up our day, love isn't just the power that we hope will stop bad things from happening.

It's how we step up at the very moments that we feel most powerless.

I don't know about you, it's hard to process all the terrorism and violence, guns and bomb threats. And I don't always know how to deal with a world that can look eerily similar to 1950s America with its hate speech and bomb drills. We don't always know what to do about the big things.

But on days when thousands of parents are terrified and children are forced out of a place that should be a safe haven, we can, at the very least, provide lunch, offer to watch our neighbor's daughter, keep our libraries open just a little longer, and be flexible and understanding with our employees and colleagues who are parents.

It's the small things that remind us of who we are — and who we must be.

It's what people did in Baltimore when local libraries at the epicenter of protests and riots refused to close, instead providing a safe harbor and support for those who needed it.

It's what Parisians did using the hashtag #PorteOuverte to open their homes to those seeking refuge and safety in the aftermath of last month's shootings.

Edward R. Roybal Learning Center during the shutdown. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.)

It's a reminder that we can, even if just for a moment, pour our energy into what is simple and comforting and good.

And that is lending a helping hand and trying our best to love the fear right out of the children who will go to school tomorrow — and the day after — with a heightened awareness of just how unsafe the world can be.

If bomb threats and school closings are a sign of these scary times times, let's not forget that these small acts of kindness and compassion are, too.

True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Biases, stereotypes, prejudices—these byproducts of the human brain's natural tendency to generalize and categorize have been a root cause of most of humanity's problems for, well, pretty much ever. None of us is immune to those tendencies, and since they can easily slip in unnoticed, we all have to be aware of where, when, and how they impact our own beliefs and actions.

It also helps when someone upends a stereotype by saying or doing something unexpected.

Fair or not, certain parts of the U.S. are associated with certain cultural assumptions, perhaps none more pinholed than the rural south. When we hear Appalachia, a certain stereotype probably pops up in our minds—probably white, probably not well educated, probably racist. Even if there is some basis to a stereotype, we must always remember that human beings can never be painted with such broad strokes.

Enter Tyler Childers, a rising country music star whose old-school country fiddling has endeared him to a broad audience, but his new album may have a different kind of reach. "Long Violent History" was released Friday, along with a video message to his white rural fans explaining the culminating track by the same name. Watch it here:

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn’t have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women’s rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn’t something we’d choose—and we’d hope others wouldn’t choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

Keep Reading Show less
@frajds / Twitter

Father Alek Schrenk is known as one of the "9 Priests You Need to Follow on Twitter." He proved his social media skills Sunday night after finding a creepy note on a parked car and weaving a lurid Twitter tale that kept his followers on the edge of their pews.

Father Schrenk was making his nightly walk of the church grounds to make sure everything was fine before retiring to the rectory, when he found a car parked by itself in front of the school.

Curious, he looked inside the car and saw a note that made his "blood run cold" attached to the steering wheel. "Look in trunk!" the note read. What made it extra creepy was that the two Os in "look" had smiley faces.

Keep Reading Show less