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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Its Not All Bad #LondonRiots - Parents FInd Child Using Social Media!


SAN JOSE, Calif. — It took only a few hours for emails sent from worried parents in North Carolina Friday to set off an international search for their son — a 22-year-old Stanford University student who had dropped off the cyber radar for six days while traveling alone in Southeast Asia.
And the mystery that took the couple from festering anxiousness a few days ago to near-panic as the week of silence reached a close, took just one day to solve.
On Saturday at 8:30 a.m. in North Carolina, the presumed-missing Jacob Boehm called his mom, Nancy Luberoff, from a two-way radio. He was deep in one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests in Malaysia's Taman Negara. The call lasted 30 seconds: "Hi Mom, it's me Jacob. I just wanted to let you know I'm safe. It's a long story but I'll call you in a few days."
Here's how a story of parental panic-turned-happy ending, so far, played out across the globe:
On Friday morning Luberoff, a Hillel campus director at Elon University, and her husband, Bruce Boehm, sent an email to a dozen of their son's friends saying they were worried. After communicating at least every few days with Boehm during his three-month journey through Japan, Thailand and Malaysia, he had suddenly disappeared. No calls, no Skype, no emails, no ATM or credit card use.
Was he in jail? The hospital?
"My husband and I both came home from work one day and realized we were both imagining him dead," Luberoff said. So they made frantic calls and exchanged emails with consular officials in Kuala Lumpur and the U.S. State Department. "The issue is not that six days is a long time, it's that six days is completely out of character for this person."
The couple signed their -mail to Boehm's friends: "With a painful heart."
In June, Boehm set off for Japan with Stanford's Chamber Chorale. From there, the adventurous music major used money he saved coaching the Palo Alto High School debate team to go off on his own. He taught English in tsunami-ravaged towns and even darted into Myanmar to renew his visa.
But this past week, there were no updates.
Embassy officials encourage all Americans traveling abroad to register with the nearest office, making contact easier in an emergency. There are specific instructions when someone has died, been jailed, caught up in a natural disaster or scam.
But a 22-year-old who hasn't Skyped for six days? The advice is limited.
Within hours of the emails to Boehm's friends, Facebook groups had been created, ultimately attracting 4,795 people; emails poured in from Southeast Asia from friends and friends of friends. Bloggers updated the Huffington Post and Lonely Planet websites. They worked efficiently, sending around lists of hospitals and hostels. The missing-person poster was translated quickly into Malay: "JACOB NEIL BOEHM, age 22, last seen in Jerantut, Pahang District, Malaysia. Traveling on U.S. and German passports, 5'11", thin, brown curly hair and eyeglasses."
Where social media soothed her that a search plan was in action, Luberoff said it also fueled her dread. A recent post noted if he went into the jungle "he could be a goner and no one would know."
One Facebooker stoked another fear: "Your child will absolutely hate you for doing this to him when he gets back."
But Timothy Tam understood the family's concern. He's a 21-year-old Stanford senior who hasn't met Boehm. But the aeronautics student caught the cyber flurry and called his dad, a director general in the Malaysian Prime Minister's office in Kuala Lumpur. It was 3 a.m. but his father understood.
Tam's father, Tam Weng Wah, called the Pahang division, where Boehm was believed to have stayed in a park lodge. A search team of park rangers was dispatched, leaving at 6 a.m. Saturday. It took 11 hours to find Boehm, who was hiking with a guided group. The rangers' jungle trek was made more difficult because it is the month of Ramadan, and they are fasting.
Although Tam's father stayed up all night to help execute the plan, he has no regrets: "My dad understood how they felt as parents. If this happened to me he said he hoped someone would do the same thing."
Luberoff agrees and says her family is overwhelmed by the response of people — from Silicon Valley to Southeast Asia — who stepped in to help..
"We all wonder, at what point do you start worrying? Do we wait five days, six days, seven days, eight days? No parent knows the answer," Luberoff said Saturday. "We do not regret emailing 12 of Jacob's friends just 24 hours ago to ask for help. We just never imagined that over 4,000 people would care enough to help."
San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
Visit MercuryNews.com, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at http://www.mercurynews.com.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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