Somebody scrabbles at the locked classroom door. It’s 9:00 o’clock, and I’m typing student questions on our latest reading into the computer for overhead viewing and discussion. “Someone’s trying to get in,” someone says. I turn towards the door as the scrabbling continues, and then the door opens. “I’m scared,” one of my students says mockingly, playing. “It could be a….”
It’s a security guard. “Campus is closed for the rest of the day and tonight,” he says. “You must evacuate the building immediately.”
“Are you kidding?” I say, even though I know it’s ridiculous to say it. Nobody would kid about a campus emergency that shuts the school down.
“No,” he says. “Get your stuff and leave quietly, now.”
The students are already packing. I grab my backpack, stuff my folders and books and a handful of student papers in it, and sling it over my shoulder. “Check the news,” I tell the students. “If I hear any more, I’ll let you know on WebCT.”
People are piling up on the stairs. Outside the window I see them below, on the lawn, milling about, not sure what to do. A security officer disperses them. If I go to my car now, I’ll be locked out. My keys and purse are in my office. I don’t know what to do. Finally, I head down the empty hallway, behind the guard, who is checking the offices. He doesn’t dissuade me as I unlock my office and grab my purse. In the hallway, everything is ominously quiet. I’m alone in here. I can’t believe how rapidly the building has emptied. I turn right and head for the back stairwell, go down in the echoing silence and out the back door. In the bright light outside, students pass up and down the pathway, heading for their cars, or looking for friends. I wave at the ones I know as I head for my Matrix. R.C. calls as I’m on the way, asking for a ride home, and we meet in the parking lot. By the time I’m in my car and have pulled out of my spot, the parking lot is at a standstill. Gridlock. For more than half an hour. I turn off the engine and get out of the car to join a group of faculty who are staring at the entrance of the lot. We’re sitting ducks for any real person with intent to hurt. It’s comfortably warm outside, and the sun is shining, and we wander around, waiting, lot, accusing each other of scheduling major exams for today, thus causing some student to plant a bomb threat to disrupt the day. Eventually campus security guards show up, and then someone calls the police. Finally someone starts directing traffic. Finally the line moves. I get back in the car, and R.C. and I leave. It’s 9:45.
The rumor is that a “credible and serious” threat in the form of a note mentioning a bomb blast and/or mayhem of some sort has been found in the women’s bathroom of the newest building. Last time this happened, a year ago, the note was found in the men’s bathroom of my building. Copycat, I think. I know the administration has to take such threats seriously, but I’m sickened at living in a world in which such precautions are necessary. And I can’t help wondering what would have happened if it had been a real emergency. Somebody better figure out a way to prevent parking lot gridlock, or we’re all doomed!