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The Work Productivity Tool Giving Hope To Belgium's Bereaved

A woman looks at a poster of a missing person at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels on Wednesday.

Three days after terrorist attacks that left Brussels in mourning, no official list of victims has been released. As people continue searching for their loved ones, they are turning to social media for help. One site in particular, Trello, is allowing friends and family to keep an active list of those who remain unaccounted for.

Trello is a visual social organization tool usually used for planning weddings or work projects, but in this application it has given the Brussels community a place to find answers. The Trello page Brussels Missing has three columns to keep track of people: missing, safe and injured. Each column has photographs, contact information and names. As more information comes out from authorities, users transfer the names: from missing to injured, or from missing to safe.

David Geilfus put up the page on Wednesday. "We thought it was a good idea to use Trello to help people finding information about missing relatives," he told NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. "Because it's quite difficult to find information on all those Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc. So we thought it was a good idea to synchronize every information we found in one place so it's easier for people to find."

Heidi Simons lives in Ravels, about an hour and a half northeast of Brussels. She posted on Facebook offering to help people look for loved ones and was contacted by a young man looking for his friend, Frank Deng. She did everything she could, which included posting his photograph and her contact information on Trello.

"I'm just someone trying to help as much as I can in whatever situation," she said. "It's just a normal thing to do."

By Wednesday afternoon, there were 22 names on the page; by now that number has more than doubled. People continue to post about the well-being of colleagues, siblings, friends and parents.

Lynne Van Buul, a nurse and respiratory therapist from Athens, Ga., used Trello for the first time to try to find information about a friend's fiancé. She posted photographs and contact information, but, like Simons, says she should not get the credit for tracking down answers.

In the attacks on Tuesday at least 31 people were killed and 316 were wounded, according to a Belgian Health Ministry statement. U.S. officials said two Americans were among the dead as well. Maggie De Block, the minister of public health in Belgium, said in a statement in French: "The victims and the families often still have a long way to go, but they are in the best hands possible. I cannot stress enough: Our medical teams have done a wonderful job."

Michael Pryor, Trello's CEO, said he sees the tool as a way for people to resolve anxiety about a project or event. He never imagined that the tool would have this particular application.

"I think it's really amazing that people are using it to solve this problem," Pryor said. He added, looking at the board: "God that's so many people, all these faces. What I wonder is how people find out about this board? How do they end up here?"

Naomi LaChance is a business news intern at NPR.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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