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‘All we heard was ‘bomb’’: Northeastern students react to package scare

“I went to my 8 a.m. as normal, and it just felt weird walking through places that only 12 hours ago were literally roped off."

Students walk Northeastern University campus on September 14, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. On Tuesday evening, a university employee was injured when a package sent to the virtual reality lab at Holmes Hall exploded when he opened it. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Northeastern University students returned to classes Wednesday after a package reportedly exploded at the university’s Holmes Hall Tuesday night, injuring one staff member. 

The university announced Wednesday morning that its campus was “secure and open” following the incident, and that an investigation by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies is currently underway. 

“I didn’t sleep well,” admitted Jasmine Velazco, a fourth-year at Northeastern who returned to class that morning. “I think a lot of people were really tired and on edge — many people don’t fathom that this could happen, and that it could be happening on your campus.”

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In a turn of events, The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the injured staff member is under investigation for potentially staging the incident. The notion is another hurdle for students still recovering from the initial event, said Kate Bloom, a Northeastern second-year.

“[The report] honestly seems like a realistic answer,” she said. “But I think a lot of students are really shocked and confused. We still don’t really know what actually happened.”

Authorities responded to Holmes Hall at 7:16 p.m. Tuesday for a report of a detonated package, evacuating the Leon Street building as a precaution. Northeastern sent out an alert reporting “Emergency Services Responding to Holmes Hall” 40 minutes later, leading many students to question why they weren’t informed sooner. 

“I wish that when [the administration] first heard about it, they would have sent an alert, even if it was vague at first,” Velazco said. “I was reading the news to find out what happened 300 feet away from me, rather than getting a statement from the school. All we heard was ‘bomb.””

Over the next several hours, rumors swirled online as students evacuated and sheltered in place. 

“Everybody just started thinking that there were bombs all around the vicinity,” Bloom said. “As things kept going, people kept saying, ‘Oh, there’s more bombs. There’s more fear. There’s more problems.’ It never really got better.”

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Danny Godlewski, a third-year at the university, found out about the situation on Twitter. He took to the social media app to voice his frustrations with the university’s communication over the course of the incident. 

“I think my main criticism is less with how they handled it and more about how they informed us,” he said.

Godlewski said while his tweet made light of the situation, it was his way of coping with the fear he and his peers were experiencing.

“I think something that our generation likes to do is to take experiences that are scaring us [and] make fun of them because we have such a pile of garbage to deal with,” he said, adding that it would have been treated differently if the situation had escalated.

The university sent out multiple updates to students throughout the course of the night via emailed ‘NU Alerts.’ One such alert, mistakenly labeled “Explosion 2,” was sent before the package’s detonation was announced to the public. The alert, which canceled Tuesday evening classes, was subsequently re-sent with a different subject line.

“I’m sure it was an honest mistake in a tense situation,” Velazco said. “But it did create a bit of panic, and the school never addressed it.”

Late Tuesday night, the university confirmed that its Boston campus would be “open and fully operational” Wednesday, and that classes would resume as scheduled. 

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“I went to my 8 a.m. as normal, and it just felt weird walking through places that only 12 hours ago were literally roped off,” said Mitchell Goldberg, a sophomore at Northeastern. “People were definitely on high alert.”

While Northeastern’s Wednesday statement linked to campus resources and other support systems for students and faculty, some felt that the school’s back-to-normal approach didn’t actually prioritize students’ mental health as they recovered from the eventful night. 

“I think we would feel more safe if we had the day to process and see for ourselves that everything’s normal on campus,” Godlewski said.  “It’s in the best interest of the university to paint it as well-handled and uneventful as possible.”

Students hope that their school continues to communicate updates about the situation amid a sea of unknown factors.

“It would be nice for an official just to say, ‘Here’s what we know and here’s what we don’t know,’” Goldberg said.

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