For Rosemary Dyer, clicking the refresh button on her Facebook page for the last two weeks has been a matter of life and death.
The Haiti native, a quality assurance analyst at the downtown Frederick software-building and technology company, Yakabod, has been using the social networking site to find out what happened to family and friends since an earthquake devastated her hometown of Port-au-Prince.
"Nobody calls to tell you, you just find out from these lists ..." she said, her voice trailing off as she gazed at the screen in front of her.
Sitting in her North Market Street office this week, Dyer scrolled through Facebook pages of her friends, many of which list messages expressing condolences, despair and prayer.
"The hardest thing for me is when I go to Facebook," Dyer said. "The people I used to chat with back home, now, it's ‘Rest in Peace.' Everybody who has a Facebook page has a RIP for somebody."
Dyer, 41, said about 20 of her friends' pages have been filled with the homage. She also received word that 25 nuns who were teachers at the Port-au-Prince boarding school she attended died when the school collapsed on them.
"Every day brings bad news of people who have passed away, even from grief," she said.
Dyer lives in Frederick and has lived in the U.S. with her immediate family since the 1990s. She fortunately did not lose any of her family in the Jan. 12 disaster. However, she contends that the small country is a place where "everyone is like a family," and she was not exempt from losing someone as close to her as a relative.
She learned the day after the earthquake that her best friend, Shirley Rene Denize, — whom she made her "blood sister" when they were children by cutting her finger and pressing it against her friend's identical cut — had perished under her collapsed home, along with Denize's children, ages 8 and 10.
Upon hearing the news, Dyer said, "I had sound coming out of my body, but I wasn't crying."
The days after that were pretty much the same, until Dyer kicked her grief into gear last week, realizing that her aftershock was nothing compared to the ones that would hit her country, and those who survived its devastation.
She said that she has received word of friends who have suffered heart attacks or lost limbs in the weeks since the earthquake, and that the most important resource is medical services.
"The first two days I felt helpless," she said. "Now, I'm overwhelmed because I'm spread everywhere trying to help. We have people pulled from the rubble, but we don't want them to die. Right now, we need to save lives."
Dyer has used her technological resources at Yakabod to promote two relief organizations that she knows and trusts that provide medical relief services to countries severely impacted by natural disasters. One is the NOAH Medical Response Center, based in Germantown (www.noahhaiti.org) and the Haitian American Volunteer Effort (www.have.bbnow.org).
With the help of her colleague, Ian Bramson, director of user adoption for Yakabod, she is reaching out to the two organizations to ensure that they have the proper software and resources to run effective relief efforts for medical services.
Bramson, of Middletown, was born in Port-au-Prince, but did not grow up there. He said a recent office meeting brought the situation of his birth country closer to home, and inspired him to help.
On Tuesdays, the office ritual of the Yakabod employees is to share something about themselves during a morning meeting. Last Tuesday, it was Dyer's turn, and she chose a slideshow of pictures of those, dead, injured or not yet recovered in Haiti.
"That really does hit home, when you know someone who it affects that much," Bramson said.
Bramson said helping Dyer is also carrying out the mission of the Frederick office of Yakabod. Its employees are a tight-knit group that does "work that matters" in the technology world.
That primarily includes ensuring that any relief organization that Dyer works with is well connected and has the proper software for their efforts, he said. He is currently connecting Dyer with a communications management company, which can be helpful especially in mass relief efforts.
"It's fascinating when you see how it stitches together ... which adds to a lot of intimacy, but adds a lot to the chaos," he said. "But what we can do is [organize] that, and we're here to help."