How 9/11 sparked a local travel site
comment Comment Written by on September 11, 2011 – 10:50 pm

twintowers.jpg

Today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. With all the commemorations, tie-ins and, in some cases, blatant profiteering (fancy some 9/11 memorial wine priced at $19.11? ), I don’t think many people have failed to pick up on this.

As midnight approaches, most of us have reached overload. Nonetheless, the following email sent out by MeetUp.com yesterday was interesting and, as the company tends to keep a low profile, it struck me as genuine.

Founder Scott Heiferman said he rediscovered his appreciation of the local community after the disaster.

Here are his words:

I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn’t bother me.

When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities?

We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing.

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors.

It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks to everyone who shows up.

Photo: the planned development on the World Trade Center’s site, via wiki images.

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