by Jenn Jarvis
WATERLOO (KWWL) - People use the Internet to get information, to connect with other people and to express themselves. And all of those functions are coming together in an online community inspired by the recent tornadoes.
Eight days and almost 8,000 members later, the "Praying for Parkersburg" Facebook group has become a melting pot of information and emotion.
It's a place to share stories, like Jennifer who talks about her fiance and children being trapped in the basement beneath the rubble.
"They were buried under 9 feet of debris. Thankfully we have amazing neighbors that knew our family was home, and they all ran to the house to pull my family out. I was at work, and prayed all the way home that God would keep my family safe, and he answered my prayers," her wall post said.
And for those who don't have a story to tell, it's a place to offer support and prayers, like Jordan who says, "I love you all and if I can ever do anything I am just a key stroke or phone call away."
The group boasts members from all over Iowa, from as far away as Texas and even Malaysia and Germany. A soldier named Corey even offers his prayers from Iraq.
In the early hours after the storm when cell phone reception was spotty at best, many were able to get to a computer and post damage reports, pictures and video. Now that the rebuilding has begun, there's a continually updated list of fundraising efforts and donation sites.
The emotion of a survival story, the offer of support, the latest information on relief efforts - it all has a place in this online community.
There are also facebook groups for New Hartford and Dunkerton. If you already have a Facebook account, you can search for any of these towns and check the groups out for yourself.
The Parkersburg group was started by a UNI student. Its almost 8,000 members have posted more than 300 photos and 200 messages.
Online Reporter: Jenn Jarvis