Bridgewater College Receives Bomb Threat

After Nearly Four Hours of Sheltering in Place, All-Clear is Given

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  • Virginia State Police, bomb sniffing dogs, and explosive technicians were called to Bridgewater College on Tuesday, March 2, to investigate a bomb threat to campus. After several hours of searching, no explosive device was found on campus.

  • Graduate students Taylor Parker, Autumn Shifflett and Lane Salisbury get comfortable on the ground level of the Forrer Learning Commons as they wait for an all-clear update from the BC alert. For nearly four hours, campus remained sheltered-in-place.

  • The lockdown was in place for nearly four hours as officers went through each parking lot at Bridgewater College, inspecting each car to verify it did not contain a bomb. The BC community was told in a first emergency alert to avoid any parking lots.

  • During the shelter in place order, Forrer Learning Commons staff closed all of the blinds in the building due to the command given through the BC Alert to avoid windows.

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Bridgewater Va. – At 11:36 a.m. today, the Bridgewater College community received a BC Alert that there was a bomb threat to campus.

It was shortly followed by the blaring emergency siren which came as an interruption to campus daily life — including classes, meals and work.  

A series of nine total alerts, delivered as texts, emails and posts on the college’s website and social media accounts, kept the campus community updated of the progression of the bomb threat. The shelter in place order lasted from 11:36 a.m. to 3:14 p.m. 

The first update alerted campus to the potential danger by stating “Bomb threat. Shelter in place. Stay away from parking lots.” The alert further confirmed that it was not a drill and reassured the community that additional information was to come. 

“I immediately wasn’t that worried because I thought Bridgewater is a small school and why would anyone want to bomb the campus,” said junior Mark James. “But then when we got the two further updates, I was a little more worried as I know it’s a very serious situation.” 

Sophomore Emily Dell was in an online class when she received the alert. During this time, her professor was sharing their screen on which the alert appeared. Initially, Dell said her professor dismissed it thinking it was only a drill and proceeded with the lecture. 

“When I realized it was a real threat, I stood up and ran around looking for someone to ask if they got the same thing,” said Dell. “I wanted to know how people reacted, because lately, my phone has been weird, and I wanted to make sure I was not the only one getting the alert.” 

For most professors and students, whether in-person or on Zoom, remaining focused on course material after being alerted to the bomb threat was not possible. “We gave up holding class pretty quickly, once it was clear this wasn’t a 15-minutes delay,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Laura Yordy. 

As campus was ordered to shelter in place during lunch time, hunger became one of the more pressing dilemmas for those sheltered in locations like the Forrer Learning Commons and Bowman Hall. 

“Students became quite hungry but eventually Dr. Hayes brought some snacks from Drs. Eby and MacDougall,” said Yordy.

Unlike those in Bowman Hall, those in the FLC had the option of Smitty’s Café for a shelter in place lunch. James was on his way to get something to eat when a staff member in the FLC approached him and offered to purchase his meal for him. 

Some students and staff were in the KCC at the time of the alert and remained there until the community got the all-clear alert, a duration of nearly four hours.  

Sophomore Ben Riddle was in the dining hall during the shelter in place. “The alarms went off and nobody moved,” said Riddle.  

“We were just waiting around because we thought they’d let us out soon,” said junior Ben Dillon. “After a while, we just decided to keep filling our plates up with food and hang out until they let us out.” 

“Staff handled it in a very calm manner and prioritized our safety. They kept the food out longer than normal just so we could get something to eat,” Riddle said. “A KCC worker even sang us a song to keep us entertained.”  

Across campus in Bowman Hall and the Forrer Learning Commons students were doing things like watching movies together and completing assignments.

“We decided to watch a movie and got through more than half of “Peanut Butter Falcon” before the all-clear sounded,” said Yordy.  

Students in Yordy’s class even began an ethical debate on the penalty for juveniles who make bomb threats. 

After an alert at 1:29 p.m. announced the cancelation of classes and activities “for the rest of the day,” two minutes later an alert was released stating that the dining hall would be closed until further notice. 

Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Student Leslie Frere sent an email after the all-cleared notification letting students know that snacks and beverages will be available both in the upper- and lower-level of the KCC, free of charge. Frere also stated that the dining hall would resume normal operation at 3:45 p.m. In addition, the Grab-n-Go had deli subs available. 

After the final alert was sent to the BC community notifying students that there was no longer a threat to campus, President David Bushman informed students, faculty and staff that “state police and the FBI will continue their investigation into who placed the bomb threat” and encouraged anyone who had any information to contact campus police at 540-578-0652.  

An official statement regarding the bomb threat made to campus on March 2, was issued by Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Abbie Parkhurst. 

“The College’s top priority is always the safety of students, faculty and staff,” stated Parkhurst. “We regularly train and prepare for threats like the one experienced today, hoping we will never need to use that training. Unfortunately, today we did.”