Three firemen, laden with oxygen tanks and gas masks, entered the Liberal Arts building during the evacuation on Oct. 1. Three students sat just a few feet to the left of that same door, their backs against the building. Were they panicking? No, just texting.
Despite the fire alarm, fire trucks, ambulance and the madly swirling rumors of gas leaks and fires, the general mood among bystanders was a simple shrug of the shoulders. Apathetic acceptance of such a potentially serious situation pervaded.
“I haven’t noticed anybody being concerned about anything,” said student Jordan Maag.
Maag was in a math lab when the alarm went off. He said that there was no serious rush for the exits in his class.
“The lady that was in charge kind of herded everyone out. Everybody did that [grab their personal belongings]. And they actually had people give books back that they had borrowed for the class. So, there was no emergency.”
For Mallory Strow, it was the lack of information that prevented panic.
“No one’s giving any directions, so we don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “We can’t exactly panic, because we don’t know what to panic about.”
She also added that none of the students seemed concerned because “we’re just happy that we don’t have to go to class.”
Bryce Hoer, another student, had his own theory on why everyone wasn’t running around screaming. According to him, excitement is only warranted in very extreme circumstances.
“I think it takes a building to blow up for people to get concerned. So I think everybody’s pretty relaxed right now.”
All students questioned noted that they were familiar with normal emergency procedures, such as leaving behind all personal belongings when exiting a hazardous situation. For some, adherence to this common procedure did more harm than good.
“When the alarm went off, I immediately thought it was false and would soon be over. So I just strolled outside,” said Jan Wellington, an English professor.
Wellington didn’t grab her car keys, ID, lunch or anything else before she evacuated. Her biggest concern was her empty stomach and the empty stomachs of her dogs at home.
“I’m wondering what to do about my hunger and my need to go home and feed my animals.”
But she acknowledged the fortunate timing of the alarm.
“It’s a beautiful day, so I guess people aren’t minding being out here as much as they would if it were the middle of the winter,” she said.
Amongst rumors, loud alarms and canceled classes, it seemed very few, if any, were concerned.