The note was found at 8:35, according to the news reports. It threatened a shooting at 9:30, but didn’t specify a.m. or p.m. College officials, campus security and local police “wasted no time” in evacuating the campus. The local news channel was laudatory regarding the efficiency of the response. Maybe they should have checked their facts. Dozens of people, probably close to two hundred, were stuck in the parking lot logjam. I was there till 9:45. One of my students was there even longer. “I was stuck till 10:00,” she said. “I just couldn’t get out, even once the cars started moving. I didn’t bother to turn my engine on.”
So, if there had been a crazed gun-wielding student on campus, we would have been trapped and absolutely unsafe, probably more vulnerable than had we stayed in the locked classrooms.
Nobody in that jammed parking lot seemed to know what to do. The campus security guards stood around, looking dazed. One of them walked through the lot, yelling something incomprehensible to us. I couldn’t hear what he said, and when I called for clarification, he ignored me and just kept walking, yelling at everyone in the lot. It turns out he was telling people to get in their cars. It turns out he knew the threat was for 9:30. Surely he should have had a megaphone? Surely he should have made sure people understood?
I suppose, I told the students this morning, they’re making it up as they go along. We didn’t have to evacuate the campus the last time a note was found. The note made threats for the following day, and it was found late in the day, late enough that few students were on campus. What these ridiculous threats do is teach us what we need to do if we really do have to evacuate. I’m sure the college will come up with a new plan now. I’m sure campus security will call police before they do anything else, and by the time students are filing out to the parking lot the traffic controllers will be in place to get us moved out. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to evacuate a fairly small campus, and with a plan in place the next threat should bring a smoother response.
But it’s ridiculous. How many times will we have to evacuate or miss a day of classes because of threatening notes? What kind of world is this? I was used to bomb threats and evacuations when I visited my grandparents in Derry in the North of Ireland. I was used to us just leaving the shop on command, our groceries in the cart. I was used to untying the dogs outside, and walking down the road fast, waiting for a bomb blast that never came. (It came for some people, though, and knowing that it could be real brought copperfear to my throat.)
I am not used to having to evacuate my campus on regular occasions, not used to having to think of yesterday’s event as an opportunity to get more prepared for the next threat, the one that might be real. Are all colleges all over the nation dealing with copycat bomb and shooting threats?