Amber Gilliland, special assignment reporter:
I was in the newspaper office when a student came in notifying us that there was a car in the middle of campus and we may want to look at it. I expected it to be someone playing a prank or somebody just late to class decided to park like a jerk. I ran out to see what the commotion was about and was surprised to see multiple cop cars and fire trucks in the parking lot. We weren’t given many answers so I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on.
My first reaction wasn’t one of panic, but curiosity. The thought that there could be real danger didn’t seem to sink in until after I left campus. I was more excited about getting the story and being able to be the first on the scene to a major event. I approached a few different students and documented their reactions to the events.
Mel Brisendine, photographer:
Two of my staff members and I were in the student newspaper office when my friend came and told us there was a car on campus and there were cops.
We rushed outside to get photos. I asked one of the campus safety officers if there was a guy in the car, he said no.
I was asking my friend what he’d seen. He had just gotten there and said a car was on the sidewalk. He asked campus safety what had happened. The campus safety officer said it just happened a couple minutes ago.
Many students were calling their friends and family letting them know about the threat, and many were taking photos of the scene with their phone from a distance. Students assumed it was either a prank to get school cancelled or that it was an actual threat. Puyallup Police and campus safety couldn’t take the risk and must treat it as a real threat.
I went back to the student newspaper office and noticed that students had been moved from the upper courtyard into the College Center building. It was packed. My friend came back and told me there were rumor that they were evacuating campus. I went out and asked a Puyallup Police officer if it was true and he said yes. The time was about 11:15 a.m.
It took me about 15 minutes to be able to exit campus because everybody was leaving. As I was exiting, I noticed the campus was blocked off for cars that were entering. This was about 11:45 a.m..
A guy tried to drive on campus but was stopped by the blockage at the front and a guy in a yellow vest was letting him know what was going on.
Grace Amsden, managing editor:
I was in one of the library classrooms; we were working until suddenly I looked out, as I heard Maureen Rickertons voice telling students to evacuate. I definitely thought it was just a fire drill, but there wasn’t any alarm. I almost started plugging my ears just to prepare for the siren.
My partner and I made our way out of the library, I followed a group of people, we went under a tree. I could see the view of an ambulance, fire truck and police vehicles.
We didn’t know what was going on. No one came to talk to us. We were just waiting, just watching the police put yellow caution tape in front of the library door.
A little while later, someone told us that all buildings were safe to enter. My teacher still wanted to have class. She said it wasn’t canceled yet, despite other classes being canceled.
My teacher didn’t say anything about the threat, but began teaching as if nothing was wrong. As the minutes went by and as I saw students making their way to their cars from the windows, I just wanted to get out of there.
I knew I had to leave right away when I heard the whole campus was to be evacuated.
What was scary was that nobody came to the small classroom I was in. It was like we were forgotten and left out. We finally made our way out when a student in the class read a text message with an update that there was a ‘legit’ bomb in the car.
I wish I could have been told what was going on in advance, as I was pretty scared. I literally ran out to my car.
Oliver Amyakar, assistant graphic designer:
Fridays aren’t my favorite day of the week, but I at least get to wake up later than usual and come to school around 11. When I drove into the library parking lot and saw fire trucks and yellow tape, I called a newspaper staff member and asked “Hey, is there a fire?” She told me “No, there’s a bomb threat.” I replied “I guess I’ll park somewhere else, then.” I parked by the Arts and Allied Health Building.
As I approached the CTR building I wasn’t scared, but rather worried I wouldn’t get to my meeting on time. I went in a back way to avoid crowds. I still managed to run into another acquaintance who said to me “They closed the library. I was working and they just evacuated it, so I can’t do my homework anymore.”
I wasn’t there for half an hour before talk of evacuation.
I heard so many annoyed people and I realized how shocked I was because of it. They were desensitized to the threat. If this was another place, maybe we’d be feeling true fear. But the majority didn’t seem to be.
It wasn’t until I was texting that there was a bomb threat at my school that I realized the gravity of the situation. I told everyone I was worried, but I still didn’t feel as much excitement or fear as I thought I should. It seemed like a foreign threat.
Altogether it was a strange experience for me.
Shelly Beraza, social media and web manager:
I pulled into a rather empty parking lot A with a relieved feeling. Yes, I got a good spot! I looked up and saw a huge crowd of people lingering around the front of the College Center. My first thought was, is there some big event I didn’t know about?
I walked down the hall and headed towards the news office, pulled out my keys and walked in. Within a few minutes, my Editor in Chief comes walking in with a camera and says there’s been a bomb threat! I’m going to take photos! I stand there perplexed… what’s happening???
In comes my advisor, you have to post right now!!! I respond with I’m waiting for Daniel to come back with photos.” Within 15 minutes, I’m bombarded with quotes, SD cards, excitement and worried expressions. I type up what I can and load up some photos. Oh my god, we actually have breaking news!
Confused already without much information, we are told that the college is being evacuated and everyone must leave immediately. I linger for a bit hanging back with Teresa and Steve, trying to get more information.
I head home and watch the news for the next couple of hours impatiently waiting to get some kind of update, only to find out it was baking soda in the car.
Michael Free Jr., reporter:
The feeling throughout the whole incident was confusion. It all happened so quickly.
I was sitting in the dining commons hanging out with my friends when a rush of students came flooding into the building. I was eventually informed that the Brouillet Library and Science Building was evacuated because of a suspicious car parked near the building. Soon, rumors spread that it was a bomb, which was further embellished when the police and fire department arrived.
I ran into the newspaper adviser and suddenly, I was on the clock to get information.
I scrambled to find people who had information but no one seemed to know anything. One of my friends, though, mentioned a retired explosives ordinance disposal specialist.
I located this person and secured an interview. They were completely willing to talk, but not be identified. They explained the standard procedure in these kinds of situations and what actions are taken by local bomb squad/EOD. The whole interview was interesting and helped me assess the situation with a level head and relaxed attitude.
As soon as our interview concluded, word came out that campus was closing and we were to evacuate.
For me, this wasn’t my first bomb threat. I had experienced them in middle school and high school. This one, however, felt much more real and scarier considering there was an actual that looked to be rigged with some sort of dangerous device.
It’s an experience that I’ll never forget and hopefully one that I’ll never experience again.
Anna Ingram, reporter:
I was doing an interview with Tom Bush, a geology professor, and during it, a student poked his head in to alert Bush, who was designated to escort students out in emergency, of what was going on.
I was directed up the stairs of the Brouillet Library and Science Building and exited the doors where a huge amount of people were standing.
I went to where my car was parked in lot A to wait.
Finally, I got out and went in the College Center where I learned where the threat occurred and that a car had been left on campus.
At this point, I had talked to Seth who insisted I leave, as he was worried for my safety. I also felt unsafe. So, I spoke to the newspaper’s editor in chief and adviser and then drove home.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost