Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Bomb Threat Interrupts Our Afternoon Plans

Ken and I experienced a bomb threat yesterday. Oh, not to us personally but at a building on the Kansas State University campus where Dennis Blair, who heads the National Intelligence Agency, was scheduled to speak.

The university has a lecture series that brings people of note to the campus to deliver a speech and answer questions put forth by lecture patrons and students. Military officers, cabinet members and presidents of the United States have been previous guests.

As we walked from the parking area to McCain Auditorium on this cold but sunny day, a young man approached us, phone in hand. "Are you going to the Landon Lecture?" he asked. We said we were, and then he told us they had evacuated the building because of a bomb threat. "I got an e-mail on my phone from K-State about it." At least, we knew the university warning system worked promptly.

We continued walking, not quite sure what to do. Should we have turned around and gone back to our car? Did we really think this whole thing was real? I'm not sure we did. I had no feeling of panic, more one of disgust that someone would disrupt this event and change the plans of hundreds of people. There were several state trooper cars parked in front and on the side of the building, a large dog sitting in one of them. People milled about the outer sidewalks.

Ken suggested we go to the classroom building next door to wait where it was warmer. Many others had the same idea, as the interiror hallway swelled with the crowd standing elbow to elbow, still bundled in winter outerwear. A few minutes later, word came that it would be an hour to hour and a half before the building was cleared for entry and the speech could begin. We decided to go on home as the delay would make me late for a board meeting I had later in the afternoon, one I felt I needed to attend.

As we neared our home, we heard on the car radio that the speech had been moved to a small theater in the Student Union. We vetoed returning, as too much time had gone by, and I'd never make it to my 4 o'clock meeting.

As the day progressed, I thought about what we'd done--continuing on to the auditorium building, then moving to one right next to it. Had there actually been a real bomb that had exploded, we could have been injured, possibly killed, depending on the size of the explosion. As I said earlier, I don't think we actually believed the whole thing to be real. And that's not a very good attitude.

The police determined later in the afternoon that the building had no explosives in it. The bomb threat had been a hoax. And the person who made the call must have been delerious with joy at what he'd accomplished. No one hurt, but he'd disrupted the lives of many. He'd let people know he had a gripe against the US government. Next time I hope he writes a letter to someone in Washington instead.

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