I admit it, when I heard that SF Make a Wish was going to transform San Francisco into Gotham City, I had chills for many reasons. Every child and adult has a favorite superhero and a concept of what that means. We’ve watched most of the movies and even cartoons as kids. Batman for me, was a TV show and a hero I would race to the TV for when I was a kid. The theme song, the antics, the Batcave, the villains and the miraculous heroic endings, all of it fascinated me, probably more than any other superhero. So when I heard they were going to turn my city of San Francisco into Gotham City for the day, I was immediately engaged and intrigued. I do refer to it as my city, because I have tremendous pride for this city and over time (two tours of 7 years) I have grown to realize it as the home I love.
But how I learned about the mission was probably no different than how you came across it. Even though it was in my city, and I’m sure people were talking about it for weeks or even months, I heard about it through social media first. As an admitted Facebook junkie I kept seeing newsfeeds on it, when I liked them, I started seeing more of them, then received a few emails from those that I liked. I was in – I had to see this thing come to life. While I’ve been a marketing professional for my entire career, I’ve never seen more transformation in it, than through social media. And I believe in the good power of it. I’ve watched social media transform from something that was a believed to be silly useless tool for teens into something that informs, exchanges and often shapes viewpoints for adults. I’ve witnessed the political battles on my personal Facebook page on topics that might not even seem to start to be controversial turn into standoffs. And given those powerful exchanges, I’ve also watched it influence and provide inspiration for good, keeping us motivated, smiling and often laughing. The Miles story was all for good. But what could it really do to a city like San Francisco- one that often can be controversial in it’s own right? A city that stands up for what is right, and let’s you know if something is wrong. I had been seeing many social stories on crime on my newsfeed lately- it’s the plain reality of living in the city. So I was ready for something enlightening and good to remind me of the goodness of the people in this city and the real reason I live here. We take action.
Even though I watched it unfold on social media, I wasn’t convinced how successful it would be because of the nature of the transitional challenges in San Francisco. It was Friday, and that means a lot of people were ditching work and likely heading to Tahoe. ‘Tis the season. I wrote a quick Scoop.it on it, sharing the viewpoint of social media power for good. I had planned on going to the ceremony at Civic Center at 2pm. I was just going to go about my day rushing out of the house. Only because of a series of coincidences- that I happened to be in Union Square early for a business meeting, and found out my meeting was going to start late- I happened to be at the right place at the right time.
As I arrived in the middle of Union Square after taking a chaotic bus ride there (opting to bus in since I was actually running late for my meeting- as usual) I observed the quiet of the city before the skaters and shoppers would arrive on this crisp and cool Friday morning. Latte and croissant in-hand I grabbed a table and just drank it all in- the sun was out, warming me as I sat and looked around. Because this city for me represents chaos, craziness, sometimes anxiety and always opportunity- but in the middle of Union Square it usually doesn’t mean the words “quiet or calm”. This Friday it was just that.
As I sat there literally soaking it all in and taking photos of the tree and the icerink already open for holiday business, I noticed on the Tiffany’s side of the street (how I refer to it!) people starting to trickle in, like photographers, reporters, equipment and news trucks. Something was up.
Thinking about my Facebook post earlier in the morning, it hit me, I realized, I was in it- the heart of where the Gotham City experience was all going to start. And I thought, I must be here for a reason. I need to see this in action.
Realizing my luck, I quickly grabbed my latte and engulfed the rest of my croissant and headed across the street.
Alas, I was early in and managed to secure the perfect spot, to what I thought was the “Batcave” locale. I asked a few reporters and photographers around, was this the bat cave (as I could imagine this being a perfect location- unseemingly so) and it was. I couldn’t believe my luck, I was literally with the reporters and photographers all securing their perfect perch. In fact, a reporter from Fox 40 news talked to me for a few minutes and asked me for a statement as I shared with her my views on social media and how this event was the result of viral marketing. And as I looked around, I thought, wow this is going to be big and much bigger than I thought. Because around me were reporters that spoke many languages and were running pre-roll- chinese, german, spanish, french and more. All of them there, to see this little kid with so much life to live, receive his dream. My eyes started welling up. My business meeting was going to be delayed, I had decided. Meanwhile I was trying to convince my client that she needed to see this. She was not amused, but I pushed her to stay, because I wanted to be there in that moment and I wanted her to stop and see something extraordinary. This was social media in action and it was something good.
I started posting on my Facebook, to let my friends know what was going on. I have some amazing people in my life that do many good things for many organizations. This definitely was one that everyone could latch on to, and I was there in the thick of it. Kinda a purposeful accident, if you believe in those, which I most certainly do.
So we waited in anticipation of seeing the Batmobile and the Batkid surface out of the (former) Levi’s steel automated garage nestled in between Williams Sonoma and Tiffany’s. Police officers were all around and I couldn’t decipher who was a real cop and who was an actor, but my gut told me many of them were law enforcement. More and more people began to trickle in. It was official, there was a crowd. Passerby’s were now asking questions. Now they, too, were joining in the scene.
We wait and I quickly decide that I will do a video. Because why not capture it in action? I am already annoyed my iPhone 4 (I refer to it as toilet phone since it once dropped into the toilet and was resuscitated) takes not so great pictures and I thought too late to take some photos with my iPad.
As the Lambourghini’s drove out, the crowd ran towards them. Not even the cops could keep us away. We needed to get up close and personal and see this kid and experience it. Finally, they kind of gave up. It wasn’t a vicious crowd, it was an interested, cheering and smiling crowd. Many had tears welled up in their eyes, you could tell you were in the middle of something that meant more than a star-gazing. This was a kid, who fought for his life, and we all wanted him to win and have the best day of his life, and be a part of it. History. His story.
With the immediate fervor over, I looked quickly for my client. I could tell that she was no longer annoyed, but was happy that she was there to experience the event… to “stop and smell the roses” she later said. We walked to our meeting appointment and as we turned the corner headed to Bush Street we realized were were in the middle of it again. Like I child, I got excited as the two cars raced down the street headed to Chinatown. I thought how very cool and what luck. They were off to the next scene of the crime.
We headed to our meeting and we both immediately couldn’t wait to share what we had experienced. Wow so right there that was two people that didn’t know about what it meant, that we shared the experience with. I shared my video. We went on with our meeting. I uploaded my video on youtube.
I already had planned to go the 2pm event (registered with SF Wish.org earlier that day) but got a last minute salon appointment that might delay that plan. I was OK with that. I wanted to go, but a last minute salon appointment in SF is a rare gem. I went off to my appointment on Geary Street.
I head up to the 12th floor and I see my new stylist (or hair design master as I like to call them) leaning out the window. I asked her what she was doing. It was sunny and hot at that point- maybe leaning out to enjoy it? I rushed to the window to see what she was practically falling out of the window for. I couldn’t believe it, I ended up being in the perfect viewing location to see the next series of events unfold for the Batkid. Random. For a couple of reasons. I am rarely in Union Square and this was a new salon for me and on the 12th floor.
I lean out the window and can’t believe my eyes. There are so many people out there! It’s getting louder, helicopters had been surrounding the city all day and as I walked from my client meeting to the salon location, I thought we were under attack. That many helicopters in the air. That much noise. Again I was struck by the monstrosity of this mission! My hair design master was with another client, but she too was very curious. The small salon was all abuzz of what was going on. I shared my morning with them. We talked about how the city was responding. I think we were all surprised to see the impact it was having on our conversation, the people who stopped to watch at one point, and the social media updates, filling our newsfeeds now from around the world. My stylist started doing my hair and I realized I was in no way going to make the 2pm event. I settled into my chair and she started to work. Midway into color she asked me would I mind if she ran down to see it and come back up while the color set? I encouraged her to go. And that is when the music started. The Batman theme song came on and I could hear it on the other side of the salon where I now was sitting. I got up out of my chair and headed down the hall because of the angle I was at, I couldn’t see too much, the sun being in my way.
I walked into the tailor shop next door and they invited me in. What I saw from the 12th floor gave me chills and again my eyes welled up but this time I couldn’t stop the flow. I was touched. There were thousands of people surrounding Union Square and Geary Street in front of Macy’s. The music was loud and proud. I couldn’t help but think of the incredible impact this event had on everyone. Even those that participated even for a minute. It was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately the tailor shop had the dirtiest windows I’d ever scene so my photos were limited. But I somehow got a couple of good shots and the dirty windows don’t make for good photos, but I could see clearly through them.
It went on for some time, and I was bummed that I was going to miss the 2pm event. But I certainly got the message and I felt like I was a big part of the day, ecstatic that I accidentally ran into it. I thought, this was probably even better than ending up at the 2pm event. I was there in the moment.
As I went about the rest of my day, now in Union Square shopping, it was the buzz of the city. As I got ready for an evening out, I turned on the radio to one of my fav stations KFOG, and they were celebrating Batkid with a program of requests that represented the day. And as I came back to Union Square later that night, it was still the buzz. I showed a bartender in Kuleto’s my video. He shared with me the day in 2009 when San Francisco became the live game of Candyland. I didn’t know about this one (living in SoCal at the time). So I learned something new. More good about San Francisco. And, on my newsfeed I started to see the city’s response (donation supporting offers and participation recaps of the event), my friends’ postings and postings from friends from around the world!
I started this day with a Scoop. My scoop was,
Well I did literally follow it, and not just socially. And I’m glad I did, because now I know and can prove that social media can motivate, change, inspire and engage. I witnessed it. And it brought out the very best in my city.
I ended my day with this Facebook update:
I can’t stop being thankful for so many reasons. I am in love with this city- and there’s so many reasons why- but today trumped all experiences watching the city embrace a child’s dream. The crowds, the energy, the good deeds, all made for the perfect day. More good will follow, people will be inspired to do more. Thankful for SF that is full of so much love and took the lead in setting an example and thankful for #sfbatkid that showed us all what a real hero is.
Imagine how much more we can do because of this example that motivated so much action. We can change the world one share at a time.