Following fake bomb threat, Saint Francis students and faculty reflect on the evacuation

by Anika Jain (’22), Arhana Aatresh (’23), Louis Chavey (’22), and Nikita Senthil (’23)| October 11, 2021

On October 5 at around 1 P.M., Saint Francis received a series of phone calls regarding the presence of a bomb on campus. Principal Katie Teekell immediately made an announcement over the PA system, informing all students and faculty to evacuate swiftly and calmly. “This is not a drill,” stated Principal Teekell. Following a pre-established evacuation procedure, students diverged to secure locations—the El Camino Hospital, the Highway Community Church, and Cuesta Park—led by teachers trained in safety and rescue protocol. 

Responders included the Mountain View Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff Department, Sunnyvale Police Department, US Coast Guard, and ATF Canine units. Following their investigation of Saint Francis’s campus, they confirmed at 5:30 P.M. that the campus was safe and that the threat was fabricated.

“With calls as concerning as those we received, we knew the only way to ensure the safety of our community was to act quickly and evacuate our campus,” shared Mrs. Teekell. “We also wanted to make sure that we could communicate with students and parents as soon as possible regarding the reason for the evacuation and to reassure them of their safety,” she added. 

Within the hour, Presentation High School in San Jose was also evacuated for a bomb threat. Authorities have confirmed that the phone calls to Saint Francis and Presentation were from the same number. Both bomb threats followed another false bomb threat at Los Altos High School on October 1.

Students were spread out throughout campus at the time of the announcement, so there was a diverse variety of experiences and reactions to the evacuation. While freshman and sophomores were in their fourth period classes, juniors and seniors were on their lunch break. In the aftermath of the evacuation, we wanted to speak with the Saint Francis community about their thoughts following the incident. 

“I was literally talking about the Los Altos bomb threat that happened last week when the announcement happened. My friends and I started speed walking to the gym when everyone started breaking into a run. We went to a friend’s house nearby and emailed our teachers that we were safe,” said Michael Grose (’22).

“I was having a meeting in the PAC lobby with other athletes from select sports. We were just sitting in a circle when the announcer came on the speaker,” said Audrey Holden (’22). “I saw people sprinting, and I was in sheer shock. It was really chaotic.” 

Holden added, “It was difficult for the faculty to move everyone out because we were all at lunch, but they did the best they could in that situation.”

Upperclassmen who were in the Quad and on the football field—where there are no speakers—did not hear the announcement. They detailed the panic that resulted from the incident:

“I was freaking out,” said Porsche Trinidad (’22). “I was like, ‘Where’s my brother? I need to find him.’ So I got on the phone, I called him, and I was able to find my brother right away. And we just ran as far as we could as fast as we could. I think the emotions started settling in after my adrenaline ran out. I started crying. I was so worried about my brothers who go to school down the street at Saint Simon. I thought, ‘What if we aren’t together?’ When I started overthinking, I got really emotional.”

When asked about the aftermath of the evacuation, Trinidad shared, “After I got home, I was super drained. I was just so sad the whole day.” She also expressed concern that if there were ever a substantiated threat, she might not be able to hear the announcement. However, she was grateful to have been with her brother amidst the chaos.

Katherine Floering (’23) also experienced strong emotions after the incident: “I was more scared after [the evacuation] than I was during.”

Having witnessed a traumatic event not too long ago at a BART station, Maria Ana (’23) had a heightened reaction to the bomb threat: “I was not 100% recovered from [the last experience]. So for me, it was probably a bit worse than for other people. I remember getting up and running, and it felt like I was running slower than I ever had before in my life. In the moment, it was absolutely terrifying. When I got home, every time I thought about it, I fell into this emotional zone.”

Some seniors, including Pujita Tangirala (’22), were in the midst of college webinars and visits when the announcement occurred: “My friend and I were sitting on the ground outside the Commons with our iPads because we were on a Zoom college visit for CMU. All of a sudden, I heard people yelling and running, but I couldn’t see what they were running from. Meanwhile, the CMU admissions officer sees all of us dropping off the Zoom call one by one. Looking freaked out, he goes, ‘I hope everything is okay over there!’”

“Then my friend yells at me, ‘Grab your stuff and run!’” Tangirala continued. “I slammed my iPad closed and ran for it. I didn’t even have time to put my AirPod back in its case! I was literally holding it in my hand while escaping. Luckily, I managed to not lose them.” She recounted her experience from a more humorous perspective, reflecting on her circumstances as “a funny story.” 

Sophomore Elisabeth Mori was also on lunch break when students began leaving campus: “I was right [in the Quad]. I just saw people running. I didn’t even know what was going on until we got to Cuesta. I didn’t really process it until we got there.”

“Everyone went crazy. I was a bit shaken up at first because I thought there was an active shooter,” added Reshaan Tolani (’24). 

Mori expressed a silver lining from the evacuation: “I’m definitely more prepared [for future emergencies] than before.” 

Some students were fortunate enough to narrowly miss the announcement: “Thankfully I had a free [period],” said Chelsea Kawamura (’22), who left campus just before the evacuation. 

Aanya Mittu (’25) shared a reassuring aspect of the evacuation—students banded together and looked after one another’s well-being. “We had a substitute teacher for Spanish, so when it came to trying to find him at Cuesta, we had no idea where he was,” she said. “After around twenty minutes of looking for him, my class and I had congregated and decided to just make our own groups. One of my friends wrote [our room number] on her binder, and another even took attendance. Eventually we figured out that the teacher was asked to help Mrs. Teekell with something in the parking lot.”

As demonstrated by these testimonies, people process stressful experiences in different ways—some with grief, some with shock, some with humor, some with responsibility. Some documented the event in any way they could and some called loved ones. Some followed their instincts, and others awaited instructions. 

Mrs. Kathryn Miller, Assistant Dean of Students, shared her reflection on the situation, expressing her gratitude that no one was hurt. She stated, “It was a brief moment, but it was a very real moment of panic. What I saw was a lot of people taking care of each other.”

Mrs. Teekell expressed that she wants to focus on the students’ emotional well-being going forward from this incident. “I still feel immense sadness that our students and educators had to experience this type of fear in the place that should always feel like their safe haven. But I also feel immense gratitude — for the response of our students and educators, for the support we received from all of our local law enforcement agencies, and for being part of a community where we take such good care of each other. To see the ways students and educators have supported one another over the past week has been a beautiful reminder of what a special privilege it is to lead this family.” The feeling of gratitude was common among faculty members, and students felt and continue to feel their warmth.

Re-converging at Cuesta Park at the end of the evacuation sent a unifying and comforting message: we were here, we were together, and we were safe. We had each others’ backs. 

Categories: Editorials, Opinions

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