Never Have I Ever Been So Happy To Be Surrounded by Armed Men
I’m so glad to finally be home for winter break. Too many instances of school campuses coming under attack have been circulating lately, and I really just want to get away from it all.
Hailing from the sunny state of California on the other side of the country, I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. Instead, I stayed on campus. On Monday, November 25, 2013, there was a Yale security alert warning about a gunman intending to cause harm at Yale. The university instituted a shelter-in-place command at about 10:00 a.m., maintaining the lockdown until about 5:00 p.m. Police and SWAT team members armed with long rifles descended upon Yale’s Old Campus, where most of the freshmen are housed. I am in one of the two residential colleges whose first-years do not reside on Old Campus, but that made me feel hardly safer as I sat in my room three blocks away from the marked danger zone, live news coverage streaming on my laptop and rapids of Facebook posts flooding alongside it. The trespasser was never found, but the police refused to announce the all-clear signal until they had marched systematically through several buildings and scoured all the rooms in them.
Turns out the phone call that tipped the authorities off to start all of this was a hoax. The call had come from a pay phone and all the anonymous person had said was that his roommate was coming to Yale to shoot people. Shortly afterward, a Yale employee reported that she had sighted a figure with a long rifle in the Old Campus area, but in retrospect, police say that she may have mistaken a responding officer for the gunman.
Only about a week later, American University in Washington, D.C., had a similar scare and equally strict lockdown procedure. Yale and American University were fortunate that theirs were false alarms, but early in December, Arapahoe High School had a real shooter. It was another blow for Colorado, already racked with gun-inflicted tragedies of Columbine and the Aurora movie theater shooting. And the Arapahoe incident occurred all too soon–just a day before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that is still a raw wound in Connecticut. A few days later, Harvard University evacuated students from four of its buildings in response to a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax by a student scheming to cancel his final examinations.
Thanksgiving and winter break have given me a lot for which to be thankful. I’m grateful that the Yale and New Haven police acted so immediately to the reports and called in a battle-ready SWAT team. As foolish as some of the false alarms were, it is much better to overreact than to underreact in situations like these. The increasing frequency of which these scares and actual violence are occurring is saying something about our society. The lockdowns at Yale and American were both reactions triggered by someone mistaking an officer for an ill-intentioned gunman. But after so much gun violence lately, this hypersensitivity is not necessarily a bad thing, especially since schools nationwide are now prioritizing and improving upon their lockdown drills. I, as well as every other person who has been in a similar position, should be indebted to the police for treating every incident disproportionately seriously. Better to be safe now than sorry down the road.