At a few minutes before 11 on Friday, I was reading a funny text message from my husband. I teach back to back classes in the same room, and I gave in to the urge to read his text while I waited for my students to arrive.
A student next to me, also waiting for class to begin, was reading a text, too. Her head jerked up and she gasped a little.
Another student from our class texted her to say that she’d been stopped at the entrance to the university by police. No one was allowed onto the campus. Then other students got texts. Their friends weren’t allowed to leave the building, even to go to the residence halls.
I picked up the phone to call our campus police and found out only that we weren’t allowed to leave the building.
It took 10 minutes before we knew that our campus had been threatened with a bomb in the parking lot and all classes were canceled for the rest of the day. See the Trib’s report here.
In those 10 minutes, my students and I considered the possibilities. I wondered if I should close and lock our door. I will admit that I was anxious. I looked at the faces of my students differently, carefully, to try to see what they were feeling.
There was an odd sense of relief when the message came of a bomb threat. I don’t think any of us could quite imagine a bomb, though, sadly, we could all imagine a person with a gun.
I don’t know why people make bomb threats. I suspect threats give them power. Dozens of police officers and dogs investigated our parking lots and then our buildings for a bomb. Many of us were locked inside, kept from living our lives normally.
But, still, I don’t know why people want this sort of power. It’s something that I can’t relate to. I can’t imagine taking satisfaction from inconveniencing people. Or from causing them anxiety and fear.
I want the person who did this to know, however, that the effect of this bomb threat wasn’t just inconvenience and fear. It also afforded those of us locked in the building an opportunity to spend time with each other.
After my students left, I talked with a colleague I rarely see, but whom I deeply respect, about teaching and research and our shared challenges balancing work and life.
When I went to the cafeteria for coffee, the roar of talking and laughing in the room was almost festive. I saw people eating together who I suspect rarely share lunch. Faculty, staff, students.
Everyone was given some “found time.” You know, the time you get when your day gets canceled. My class was canceled, my afternoon meeting was canceled, and in return I got to really talk with a colleague. I also got to spend some time in my office doing some paper work that really needed doing.
And then, as suddenly as we were locked in, we were tossed out. Everyone had to leave at about 2:20 so that the buildings could be checked, room by room.
As I drove off campus, I was surprised by how much emotion I felt toward the police officers who were directing traffic. While I was doing paper work, men and women like these were doing their jobs, confronting a much more proximate possibility of danger.
So, your bomb threat, my friend, had the power to scare us. But we found the silver lining and found each other.
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