The slayings of Michael and Cathryn Borden have demonstrated once again the role the Internet now plays in public events and how quickly it can bring people together.
The double shooting happened Sunday after the Bordens argued with their 14-year-old daughter, Kara, about her curfew. She reportedly was out all night with her 18-year-old boyfriend, David Ludwig, Pennsylvania police said.
Her parents called him into their Lititz, Pa., home to set some rules about their daughter's curfew. It was then that Ludwig shot and killed both parents, police said.
Within hours of the killings, Kara and Ludwig's friends began posting on their own -- usually brightly colored and often Christian-themed -- personal Web sites.
"I just found out something REALLY bad just happened to a VERY good friend of mine," one 17-year-old boy wrote on his site, which is linked to Kara's. "I'm scared."
Another friend composed a prayer for Borden and Ludwig, who were both home schooled and are deeply Christian.
"I pray for my friend Kara," wrote another male from Lancaster on his site, which is also linked to Kara's. "My prayer is that you will keep her safe...Lord, I even pray for David Ludwig...he needs you more then ever now lord! Lord, I pray that you will place peace in the hearts of family and friends that love her (oh) so much."
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late August, many people used the Internet to search for their loved ones. Sites like National Next of Kin Registry became forums for the displaced. Distraught parents posted photos of missing children on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Web site. Even sites like craigslist.org, which is often used for finding apartments, became a destination for those trying to find someone.
Only four short years ago, victims of the Sept. 11 attacks did not turn to the Web. Instead, many walked the streets, handing out photos of the missing. Family and friends posted pictures on scaffolding, fences, telephone poles -- anywhere they could find.
Because of the intensely personal nature of the Borden shooting, this tragedy takes a different tone. It did not happen to thousands of people, but to a close-knit group of teenagers who did so much of their socializing online.
Yesterday, after Kara and Ludwig were apprehended in Indiana following a high speed chase, their circle of friends began to use the Internet to proclaim their relief that neither was hurt.
Communication between the pair's friends is certainly expected. But because of the Internet's accessibility, thousands of people have found Kara and Ludwig's sites. Comments posted by people who do not know the pair seem to go on forever.
Some sentiments are kind and supportive: "Kara, Keep God in your life always. I don't know you or your family but I will keep you all in my prayers."
Others are not: "Your parents are in hell because they believed in Jesus. Allah be praised and that boy too for aiming true."
Some of Kara and Ludwig's friends have begun a petition to take their sites down. They are sending protest e-mails to Xanga, a self-proclaimed "community of online diaries" that hosts the sites; and myspace, a forum where the two have pages that allow them to communicate with their friends.
"Kara has been through enough, she doesn't need this crap on top of it," wrote a 17-year-old girl who says she is a friend of Kara's. "If the media would have kept their mouth shut...and not put their pages on the Internet...most of this would not have happened. These are their PRIVATE pages...there is no need for them to be publicly announced on the Internet and TV."