The power of social media, and the value of a caring community

Mandy McPhee's safe return is a tribute to the power of social media and the enormous value of a caring community. I’m not sure which is more powerful, but when the two work together in harmony, they are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

The wonderful news that Mandy McPhee was reunited with her family on Friday, after she had been missing for six days, was received with thankfulness by many Langley families. Those who know Mandy and her family are, of course, the most relieved.

The fact that she returned to her family, safe and sound, is also a tribute to the power of social media and the enormous value of a caring community. I’m not sure which is more powerful, but when the two work together in harmony, they are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

As almost every Langley resident knows, Mandy went missing overnight last Saturday (June 11). Her mother noticed that she was gone the next morning. The family contacted Langley RCMP, put up posters and spread the word via Facebook. A search and rescue team was called in. By Tuesday, police had issued several press releases. On Tuesday afternoon, her parents were front and centre at a news conference at the George Preston Recreation Centre, near the McPhee home.

Many Lower Mainland media outlets, including The Times, gave the disappearance a lot of attention. It was out of character for Mandy to simply disappear, and her family knew that the wider the word was spread, the more likely it is that she would be found.

Mandy has now posted a YouTube video (see www.langleytimes.com), apologizing for running off and giving some detail about what she had done. Basically, she spent the six days wandering around Vancouver, often by transit, and spent all or most nights sleeping in the woods on Mount Seymour.

On Friday, for some reason, she was riding a bus back to Langley. I don’t know if she was ready to be found, or was simply following a homecoming instinct. She was probably ready to come home, but wasn’t sure quite how to do so.

While she was on the bus, Crystal Peter, an alert 20-year-old, recognized her. She told me that she had seen posters up in Langley, and had also seen information about Mandy’s disappearance on Facebook. She had her iPhone with her,  and compared the Facebook posting to the face of the girl in front of her. She was sure it was Mandy, and texted her mother to call police.

The two young women got off the bus at Willowbrook Shopping Centre, where Mandy was soon met by police.

Keep in mind that information about Mandy’s disappearance had been all over the Lower Mainland for at least four days. Only when she arrived back in Langley was she noticed, and then action was quickly taken.

Crystal told me that she and other young people in Langley are relieved, because they were fearful that Mandy had been abducted — a reasonable fear in the circumstances.

Social media and conventional media got the word out about Mandy’s disappearance, but it was the alertness and genuine caring shown by one young Langley resident which brought the matter to a happy ending.

Langley has a reputation as a caring community. Crystal showed that quality remains strong here.

Langley Times

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