Missing girl's father finds help through Twitter

Message regarding man's missing teenage daughter is spreading across the service at an extremely rapid rate.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

A 14-year-old girl named McKenzie Church has gone missing, and Twitter is being used to spread the word of her disappearance and hopefully find someone who knows where she is.

If you've been on Twitter Tuesday, you've probably seen a tweet similar to "retweet: @genochurch's 14 yr old daughter is missing" followed by a link to Genochurch's blog post asking for help in finding his missing daughter. At first glance, it seems like a simple "retweet" seen almost daily on Twitter. But after some digging, you'll quickly find that it's spreading across the service at an extremely rapid rate.

In fact, "please retweet" and "Twitter Amber Alert" are two of the most popular search terms on Twitter. A quick search of "genochurch" on the service's search page yields thousands of results, which are being updated constantly. In a 30-second stint, the site updated the results pages with tweets containing the username a whopping 40 times.

According to Rob Church, his daughter McKenzie was last seen Saturday around Greenville, S.C. He's unsure where his daughter went, but he believes she may be with her 17-year-old boyfriend, Ryan Schichtel, in his 1997 Honda Accord.

McKenzie Church is not listed on the government's Amber Alert page, but a news report by a local TV station in the Greenville area mentions that the girl has gone missing. It does point out, though, that authorities believe she is in no danger.

"Greenville County deputies told us the missing girl is being treated as a runaway," Greenville's WSPA CBS channel reported. "Her friend is not considered a runaway because of his age. Deputies do not feel the pair is in danger."

Although a number of Twitter "campaigns" have developed over the past year, most were confined to a small group on the service. But this unprecedented response on the part of the Twitter community to help Church find his missing daughter is attracting Twitter users from across the globe and has quickly swept across the service.

There's no telling if the help Church is receiving from Twitter will bring his daughter back home, but it certainly highlights an important point: Twitter cannot only connect people in a community, it can harness the power of that community for something far more important than telling others what you had for dinner last night.