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The other day I was scrolling through Twitter, mostly out of boredom but partly because it’s amusing to see what has Twitter users worked up into a rage, because Twitter has become the ultimate rage vehicle.

But then something happened. A tweet was shared that caused me to nearly gasp.

“I’m on Twitter every day. I retweet all the time but this is the first tweet I’ve ever written. I’m (a) good guy, I’m a veteran, I love America. I’m gonna kill myself tonight. I’ve lost everything I have nobody, nobody cares. I’m in a parking lot with my dog and everything I own. Bye.”

Was this real or was somebody playing a sick trolling game? Soon, thousands were responding to Andrew. It was shared by actor James Woods and syndicated radio talk show host Dana Loesch. Combined, they have 2.85 million followers on Twitter and from all indications, their followers may be among the most compassionate. 

There was no snark, which you would expect from Twitter. Nobody encouraging Andrew to do it. Overwhelmingly, and in increasing numbers, people were imploring Andrew to not follow through.

One of the first tweets to him was a from a Catholic priest asking him to direct message him so he could talk to him. He was not alone. Other veterans also were tweeting to Andrew, saying they understood. They have been there too, but this is not the answer.

And there were common, everyday folks so moved by this singular tweet, just wanting to let Andrew know he wasn’t alone. And he wasn’t, as the tweets mounted into the thousands.

Woods offered to speak with him. I sent a message, not knowing if it would matter, knowing it was likely lost among the many, many tweets. I then tried to retweet his message and follow him, so I could keep up with the situation. 

Then my heart sank.

I couldn’t retweet because the tweet had been removed. Good maybe? Maybe he was OK and regretted the tweet. But then when I tried to follow and got the message that the page no longer existed, hope turned to dread.

It further raised the alarm for others now finding themselves emotionally invested and desperately wanting to help Andrew.

Loesch speculated Twitter likely removed it as it is policy to remove tweets and accounts of those expressing self-harm. Seriously? I thought. Here was an instance when Twitter was possibly the only mechanism that could reach Andrew and he could see that it wasn’t true he had nobody. Did they cut his lifeline?

People stepped up their search and didn’t give up. Andrew’s location was believed to be in Orlando, Fla., and Twitter users contacted Orlando PD via Twitter and phone. The Orlando PD responded they were immediately undertaking the search.

Still, no word.

I checked Andrew’s Facebook page which said he was from Maitland, Fla., but the page looked inactive. And then it went dark too.

Once this information was known, Twitter users contacted Matiland PD, including Woods, who posted: “Okay. Just talked to Maitland Police. The dispatch supervisor there was terrific. He’s confident they will find him. I gave Billy, the dispatcher, Andrew’s home address and the info a reliable source DMed me. They are all over this.”

A reply came back from law enforcement: “This is a 911 Operator with Seminole County, FL. We are (in the) area and so is Maitland Police Department. We are actively looking for him and have BOLOs out for him across the county.”

Another sleuthing Twitter user located a family friend. “I found a family friend of Andrew’s via his FB. She is in contact with Andrew’s mom, they are trying to find George, Andrew’s brother...to get Andrew’s cell number. Can the WalMart parking lots get checked??”

Andrew’s phone was being pinged.

Woods tweeted again, this time expressing what everyone was likely feeling at the moment. “If only Andrew could see the THOUSANDS of fellow Americans who are pulling for him. It’s like he’s lost behind enemy lines and we are cheering him home, willing him to survive. Andrew, do this for the ‘other 21’ vets a day who don’t make it home from the darkness. Stay alive!”

Veterans were personally scouring Orlando and Maitland in the hopes Andrew could be found. In time. 

The search went late into the night. Then word finally came. 

Andrew was found. 

In time. 

Yes, it was confirmed Andrew was now back home safe and with his loved ones.

Social media did become a lifeline, instead of a place for hatred. It also showed that, deep down, people are overwhelmingly damned good. 

A vet is back home, able to celebrate the holidays with family, knowing his cry for help was answered. Knowing people do care.

I just want to add three wonderful, heartfelt words: Happy Thanksgiving, Andrew. 

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Ruthenberg is a multiple award-winning columnist and writer for the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com

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