Niko Yasui was as calm as can be, welcoming me as I arrived unannounced at the counter of the HRVHS main office on Monday morning.
“Hey, I was going to call you,” Yasui said. A common welcome I hear (and say) on a daily basis.
I had come to HRVHS having heard that of the receipt of bomb threat. I wanted to find out what was going on.
Yasui had other things to discuss. “Changes with Homecoming this year, and Tsuruta Sister City,” he said. Yasui is Leadership advisor, putting him at the helm of Homecoming, and he also serves as Sister City president. (It’s a long affiliation in both ways: he was ASB president c. 2000 and we still have the photo of 18-year-old Yasui addressing the 25th anniversary of the Tsuruta program in 2002.)
Deftly, Yasui gave me five minutes of his time as he attended to disconnecting a portable speaker system in the commons, and then, speaking of speakers, the school announcement came forth: “buses are waiting; all students must leave the building and go home. Go to the buses now.”
Immediately, Yasui in his pink tie was approached by a half-dozen students asking what was going on.
With a remarkable upbeat frankness, Yasui told each that for their safety they needed to exit quickly, but he did it with the same tone as if he was asked what was on the lunch menu that day.
“You’ve got a snow day,” Yasui told one student who was in true disbelief about being sent home.
I was impressed with the way Yasui and his fellow employees handled the situation, a calmness that apparently the students picked up on, judging by their smooth exit from the school. There was some excitement about it, and I’m sure Facebook was buzzing right away, but it also seemed like most students were not exactly happy to be sent home early. It didn’t seem like a snow day.
My conversation with Yasui and the evacuation were the start of an interesting, to say the least, hour I spent between 11 and noon at the school.
While Yasui and others worked to make the incident as smooth as possible for students, the unexpected dispatch of all students home for the day must have been a big disruption for plenty of families. Certainly most members of the 14-18-year-old demographic are fine on their own, but parents were still notified by “robo call” and would understandably be concerned about the situation.
Many would have to take time off work to come to school for the sudden release. Who knows what individual plans were canceled, changed, or otherwise disrupted by the stupid actions of one (or two?) students who got their misguided jollies from raising a scare for everyone.
For my part, I had to wait while district officials, who saw me there, prepared a written statement. Meanwhile my phone battery was dying, and of course I would not be allowed into the building to use a land line as backup.
I busily phoned Ben Mitchell with the details I was able to collect, so that he could get them on Facebook and the website.
There I stood, the only person in the HRVHS forecourt, waiting for information and hoping my phone would hold out, also resisting the temptation to call family members and make sure everyone was okay.
I mention all this because as I stood there I realized that my concerns were likely small distractions compared to what many of the students, staff, and family members were feeling.
What we all had in common was responding to this kind of unique event: bomb threats are no longer Something That Only Happens Elsewhere.