Among the more than 50 million tweets sent every day, there is no shortage of messages that are easily dismissed - everything from people complaining about waiting lines to companies pimping their brands. However, every once in a while, a tweet breaks through the noise and tells an important story. On Tuesday, the story came from award-winning photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed the very next day. Here's what he wrote April 19th, 2011:
"In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."
Hetherington tweeted only a few dozen times in his history on Twitter. This would be the last. As journalists and fellow photographers remember the man who was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in Libya, the 100-odd characters that Hetherington sent out capture his last days on the front lines. While he was by no means an avid participate on Twitter, his few messages tell the story of a photographer who devoted his life to sharing images from war-torn countries.
After spending time in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, and winning the World Press photo competition for a picture he took there, he continued to question on Twitter what more he could do to get people to care about these conflicts: "The question is, how do we get people to engage w/ ideas of conflict? How do we get people to think about Afghanistan?"
Hetherington also tried to explain why he was spending time in such dangerous parts of the world.
"My work is about trying to get us to understand that we are connected and trying to build bridges and understanding between people."
Of course few of us live our lives in such a way as to face life and death when we go to work. What Hetherington's last tweet does is demonstrate the power of a platform like Twitter. For a brief time, his tweets allowed us to look beyond images and discover what was going through the head of the man snapping the pictures. Hetherington's legacy lives on now not just in the powerful visual depictions of conflict, but in his words, too.