The buzzing of my phone at 9:18 p.m. abruptly interrupted my typical Monday night that I spend studying in the Elson Art Center. Glancing down at my phone, I saw streams of texts from my friends with messages like “There’s a man on campus!” and “Don’t go outside!” pouring onto the screen. Disoriented and frightened, I quickly jammed my books into my backpack and sprinted to my dorm, taking refuge in my room.
I heard the whirring of helicopter rotors outside my locked windows, along with the nervous laughter and meager reassurances of dorm members in the hall. Scrolling through social media pages was no relief, for many people had begun to upload posts about the man with five outstanding warrants who was supposedly roaming around the Cochran Bird Sanctuary. With Ms. Elliott’s email being the extent of our knowledge of the situation, no one had any idea what was happening or if the man was armed. This was the first time during my two years at Andover that I can say I was genuinely frightened for the safety of my peers and myself on campus. While Andover is usually safe, when situations like these arise, it brings forth the scary truth that Andover may not be the bubble we think it to be.
Though the objective of the man who came onto campus grounds was to escape police clutches, his entry generated a series of concerns and fears. When I first heard that an interloper had entered campus, my thoughts immediately shifted to thinking that he may have a weapon. Though I knew this was likely untrue, I was nonetheless frightened and found that many of my classmates shared similar sentiments. With recent discussions and media attention being centered on gun control laws and school shootings, it was scary to have insufficient information to distinguish this man from one of the shooters I had seen on TV. According to an article published in BBC News, there were 64 school shootings in the United States during the year of 2015. This terrifying statistic shows why many students, including myself, were frightened by the possibility of this man being armed – shooters are not unheard of.
While the events that unfolded on Monday night do not nearly compare to school shootings, it was frightening to see the extreme security measures that were taken to capture the man. It was unsettling to see how easily a stranger was able to enter campus. Before I knew about the man in the Sanctuary, I had spent an hour stressing over a math assignment, but once I read Ms. Elliott’s email I was only concerned about the safety of my friends and myself. After the threat was dismissed, I realized how lucky we are to live in a community where we are able to stress about things as relatively trivial as our math homework.
There are places in the United States and around the world where safety is always a concern. If nothing else, I hope that this experience allows us to put things into perspective and to realize that the Andover bubble is not as indestructible as it seems.