Thursday, 4:30 PM
MIT 'hacks' mark Sept. 11 with a fake fire truck
(Michele McDonald/Globe Staff)
A fake fire truck appeared this morning on top of the 150-foot high Great Dome at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
In what may be an only-at-MIT Sept.11 tribute, a fake fire truck appeared this morning on top school's Great Dome, the site of storied student pranks since at least the 1960s.
From the ground, the vehicle appeared to be the old fashioned cab of a truck that has been painted red. The cab is attached to a rectangular box, which is also red, and has the words "MIT Fire Dept." painted on the side in bold white letters. A coiled rope dangled from the side of the "truck," completing the emergency vehicle look.
The Great Dome is a 150-foot high rotunda that dominates the skyline of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. It has been the site of other notable pranks -- known on campus as "hacks" -- including a 45-foot replica of the Wright brothers' biplane on the 100th anniversary of flight in December 2003.
Perhaps the most famous prank came in 1994 when what looked like a real MIT campus police cruiser appeared on top of the Great Dome, complete with flashing lights and a box of donuts in the front seat. The car, numbered "pi," had a sign in the back window that read: "I brake for donuts."
School officials declined to discuss today's fire truck, but said they can only assume it was a nod to the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11. MIT does not have its own fire trucks.
In the past, the school has not seriously punished hackers. When the Wright brothers' biplane appeared, six students were spotted leaving the building at about 6 a.m. Not only were they not arrested, but an officer helped one retrieve a forgotten laptop.
This morning a spokeswoman for school noted that the objects have always been safely placed – and removed – from the Great Dome. Other objects that have appeared include a telephone booth in 1982; a fiberglass steer from the Hilltop Steak House in Saugus in 1979; and a giant wood screw in 1977.