03 April 2012

Crying Wolf. Or Are They?

Anyone who has been following my Twitter account in the last two weeks will know that the University of Pittsburgh has been turned on its head with a slew of bomb threats. I will try to relate the information as best as I can, as I know it at the present time.
The first threat, on February 13 of this year (not within this two week time frame, but believed at the moment to be the spark that started it all), was written on a stall in the girl's bathroom on the second floor of the Chevron Science building, where I work and have my classes. It said, "There is a bomb in the building. It will go off 8:29pm February 13, 2012. BE READY." Upon finding the message, Pitt Police evacuated the building for roughly four or so hours. The alarm, when it sounded, was the kind that made you want to run faster, every time it started over. It was not the monotone BEEP BEEP BEEP of high school fire drills. It was a siren. I had to run down nine flights of stairs to evacuate the building. Each time the alarm began to sound again, I picked up the pace, flying down steps.
As of two weeks ago, similar messages have been scrawled on the walls of the Cathedral of Learning, David Lawrence Hall, and Chevron's bathrooms, and one being sent via text message. Additionally, last night, the Litchfield Towers dormitories were evacuated at four in the morning, after two emails were sent to Post-Gazette journalists, describing the presence of the bomb, "in the Towers, not too far from Panther Central." Students were not allowed back in their dorms until after six in the morning.
This morning, at about 10:30, the lab I was teaching was interrupted by the alarm going off for another bomb threat, and my students had to cease their experiments in order to evacuate. Barely three hours after Chevron was cleared, the Cathedral was once again evacuated. We are now up to twelve bomb threats in the last two weeks alone. Students are missing labs, classes, exams, and now, sleep. More importantly, some are losing their sense of security.
In an email from one of my students, who will remain anonymous, I was informed that she would not be handing in her prelab as she, "along with many others, no longer feel very safe on campus," and did not feel comfortable entering a building that had just been threatened. Other students have reported that their parents have considered removing them from the school, at least temporarily, for fear of the safety of their children. For those that are visiting this week as part of Pitt's accepted student tours, as well as those for other prospective students, the almost daily threats are becoming a deterrent.
Currently, there are many theories surrounding the "reasoning" behind these threats. Some believe students are involved, and are pushing these threats because they did not study for an exam, or have fallen too far behind in a class. Others think that it is a too-long-drawn-out prank that passed any notion of being funny long long ago. More terrifyingly, some speculate that the threats will turn out to be the real deal some day, in a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" fashion. For now, everyone is taking the threats seriously, and leaving the building as soon as the alarm is sounded, but we can't help but wonder if the day will come when people are not so eager to leave, grown jaded by constantly interrupted classes. Will we, then, be right where the so-called "Bomb-Threat Guy" wants us? The implications of this theory are incredibly dangerous and terrifying, but one cannot help but consider the possibility, especially given the shooting that happened during spring break at UPMC's Western Psychiatric building.
In the meantime, Pitt Police, State Police, the F.B.I., and other agencies are investigating the threats in an effort to find the culprit(s). Pitt Police has even offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any and all persons involved, a reward that was announced as $10,000 on Friday, and has shot up to $50,000 as of yesterday, as a result of the two additional threats received to the Cathedral and David Lawrence Hall. With the three that have happened since that increase, I've heard some students speculate that the reward will follow suit.

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