Friday, March 21, 2014

Bomb Threat: Schools Evacuated

This was what I heard when I answered our phone at 9:30 AM this morning:

"This message is from the Helena Public Schools.  We were just informed that the Helena Police Department has received another bomb threat indicating an unnamed school has been targeted.  We are presently evacuating all schools K-12 at this time to their alternative sites.  School is being dismissed for the remainder of the day.  Parents are asked to go to their school's evacuation site and check out their child for the day."
Bus transportation home will begin as soon as all parents are notified.  Buses will be running their regular routes and will be picking children up from the evacuation sites NOT the school.
Please be sure to check the Helena Public Schools web site for evacuation sites and further updates.

The same message was left on my cell phone and email. I had intended to do some errands later in the morning, so gathered what I needed for those, and drove to town.

Traffic was backed up for several blocks before the evacuation site. Realizing it would be tough to backtrack, I stopped for a quick errand along the way. When I finally got to where the students had gathered, I found a remote parking spot and went looking for my son.

Despite my tendency to worry, and because I knew my son was safe, I was not anxious, but mildly annoyed. I was glad the threat had not been dismissed as a hoax, and the safety of the students had been taken seriously. But I was frustrated at the interruption of my plans and of the school schedule, and angry at the person who had made the threat. I was even embarrassed because I hadn't planned on seeing people I knew, and I was looking far from my best!  Perhaps the two (apparently unfounded) bomb threats to area schools this week had made me cynical.

I don't know how many schools were directed to gather at this site, but there were huge numbers of students clustered in groups around teachers holding clipboards. Some teachers were talking and laughing with students, others looked harried.  Parents were milling around, and an impressive array of cell phones could be seen.  It would have been hard to find my son without his text messages.

As my son and I wove through the crowd back to my car, I was suddenly so grateful nothing bad had happened. I imagined hysteria, confusion, fear and desperation, in the event of an actual shooting or bombing..  The moments spent trying to locate a child would be filled with panic.  Feelings of relief once you spot him or her -- or searching the crowds repeatedly if you don't.  Actually, it is beyond anything I could even imagine. 

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