There were two more bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh yesterday, when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that it had received its seventh and eighth—yes, you read that right: seventh and eight—bomb threat since March 14.
David Lawrence Hall was evacuated. No bombs were found. Then the Cathedral of Learning was evacuated. No bombs were found.
A coworker and I had to wonder: At what point do people start to tune out these false-alarm news stories?
I remember being in high school when there was a bought of bomb threats—and even endured one early dismissal as a result of one.
I remembered not taking the whole ordeal seriously, wondering only why someone would be compelled to scrawl a threat on a bathroom wall.
As students, we conspired that it was likely someone who didn’t want to take a test that afternoon, but it never really occurred to us that we were in any real danger.
But that was before 9/11. That was before Columbine and the spate of other recent campus shootings (including one at a religious college in the state of California Monday afternoon).
We know better now. And I at least hope we all try a little harder to be a little safer—a little more vigilant.
Locally, the Oakland area (both the folks who live, work and study there, and those of us who have loved ones who do) has already .
Part of staying safe is staying informed.
And the University of Pittsburgh has been keeping its students, faculty, staff and media in the know.
Just last week, the university posted a letter is sent to parents about the incident, and one that announced a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the anyone responsible for the bomb threats. That reward was bumped up to $50,000 Monday.
To view the letter, see the attached PDF.
And remember: Stay safe and stay informed!
Singer/pianist Ben Folds paid tribute to the Cathedral of Learning with some impromptu lyrics during Pitt’s “Bigelow Bash 2006”: “The big lonely building of Pittsburgh, Standing tall all by itself. The people at the base, they look like parasites. The lonely building of Pittsburgh.”
My daughter Colleen, then a Pitt student, was at that Ben Folds concert on April 1, 2006. One year later, on April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before committing suicide on the Virginia Tech campus—the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.
The next semester, in reaction to that incident, Pitt instituted an Emergency Notification System (ENS), giving students the option of being notified by phone text in case of crisis situations on campus. My daughter signed up, giving both of us some peace of mind. And yes, they did have an occasional (that's "occasional") bomb threat then, too.
My daughter finally graduated last August, joining her father (’77), maternal grandmother (’40) and two great aunts (’34, ’51) as Pitt alumni. To us, the Cathedral is more than just a building, the university more than just a school—they are part of our family’s history.
The Cathedral was commissioned in 1921; the groundbreaking took place in 1926. The first class was held in the building in 1931, while my Aunt Sue was a student there, and its exterior was completed in October 1934.
By the time the university held the formal dedication in June 1937, my mother had just finished her freshman year. My Aunt Sue and mom have passed down to my daughter some commemorative plates and medals that prominently feature the Cathedral they so loved.
Folds’ song is right. Of all the buildings in the Pittsburgh skyline, none stands so alone as a landmark of the city than the Cathedral of Learning. Whether it’s perfectly framed with the buildings as you approach it from Forbes Avenue or sneak a peak at it from the Parkway East, the structure IS the University of Pittsburgh.
But he was wrong about the people. They might look like parasites from the top of the Cathedral looking down, but they are someone’s daughter, son, wife, husband, grandchild, brother, sister, friend.
Frustrated with the Pitt bomb threats? Fed up? Tired of it?
Well, personally, I feel that’s exactly what these culprits want—to desensitize a community into thinking it’s all a big college prank—until one day, it’s real.
As someone who has a little sister who both lives at and attends the University of Pittsburgh, I have a real fear that the threats are in fact legitimate. It’s not a joke, it’s not funny and it’s about time these people are caught and held accountable. Every time a threat comes in over the news, I text Molly to make sure she is OK.
I don’t know how anyone can even imagine joking about an explosion of any kind in the society we live in today, where mass attacks of violence—one of which just happened in Pittsburgh at Western Psych—are becoming more and more frequent.
What happens when bomb threats become the norm and people decide not to leave a building as fast as they possibly could? What happens when no one takes them seriously? That’s when the true disaster could occur. Violence is real—and threats of any kind should be taken seriously. It is my hope that the emailed threats that came in this morning—at a dorm where students sleep—will finally be traced and the people accountable will be charged.
And for now, I urge anyone on campus to set aside their frustrations—and stay on high alert. Be vigilant and stay aware.
Have you, a family or friend been affected by the recent string of bomb threats? Tell us about your experience in the comments section right below.