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Back Local News Simultaneous bomb threats trigger evacuation of two schools

Simultaneous bomb threats trigger evacuation of two schools

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EMOTIONS ran high yesterday morning as parents of students of Wettengel Elementary School and Okkodo High School were informed of two bomb threats.

It was a challenging time for emergency unit responders when the first called-in bomb threat was made to Wettengel Elementary School at around 7:35 a.m. through 911, immediately followed by a similar threat at Okkodo High School at around 7:49 a.m.

At around 8 a.m., Wettengel received another call mentioning anthrax in the school vicinity.

Guam Fire Department spokesperson Lt. Ed Artero said emergency units from GFD, the Guam Police Department and Homeland Security were immediately dispatched to Wettengel and Okkodo to evacuate the students.

Guam Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Robert Malay told Variety that Okkodo students, teachers and school staff were evacuated to the nearby vacant lot when he arrived at the school.

Ross Morrison, one of the members of the Guam Rugby Club, came and opened the gate of the Guam Rugby Field for the students and provided access to their facility’s restroom.

According to Wettengel Principal Melissa Limo, the school has around 700 students.

Orderly

“The evacuation was made in order; the students were very good, and nobody panicked. The teachers and faculty members did a very great job and followed all the emergency rules that they learned from all the emergency drills we do every month,” Malay said.

While supervising the evacuation of students, Malay was also monitoring the situation in Okkodo, where more than 1,000 high school students were evacuated to a nearby vacant lot.

K-9 units were also deployed to search both schools, but no explosive devices or anthrax was found.

“It was an excellent joint effort of the school teachers, Guam Homeland Security, Fire Department, Police Department, Mayor's Office, GDOE staff and Rugby Club members. Luckily, the bomb threats were hoaxes and nobody was harmed,” Malay said.

'Whats App'

Grade school teacher Romina Muna said most of the teachers were notified of the threat through a social networking application called “Whats App.”

“When I saw the message on my phone, I immediately instructed my students to get in line. I kept telling them to stay calm although it was nerve-wracking because 20 minutes after we were told to evacuate, we were informed of another threat about anthrax,” Muna said.

Muna, who has been teaching at Wettengel for 11 years, said she could not recall any prior bomb scare in the school.

“This is my first time to experience it. I felt a little nervous but I looked at the kids and they [were] all calm and doing good. Some parents who were just dropping their kids off were trapped because we locked the gate right away. Some teachers manned the gates while emergency responders checked the compound,” Muna added.

She said the school also received the all-clear through “Whats App” shortly after 9 a.m.

Bombed

The teachers and students all lined up and walked to the adjacent rugby field while some anxious parents started gathering outside the campus, texting and calling their children.

“Son, are you OK there?” a mother of a 2nd-grader was overheard talking to her child on the phone.

A parent who requested anonymity said she was just a mile away from the school when she heard about the bomb threat on the radio.

“With all these bombings and news about students getting shot in the school, I can’t help worrying about my kids. Every morning when I drop them off to school, I always pray that nobody harms them. I am already worried, so the last thing I need to hear are bomb threats in the school,” said Eloisa Galang of Dededo.

“I got scared too; I almost cried. When my teacher told us to come out, I [knew] that there [was] something wrong,” a 9-year-old student told Variety.

“I heard it on the radio. I immediately thought about my daughter Lolita and my son Bryce, but I am not worried because I always pray and I am confident that our law enforcers will do everything to keep them safe,” said Naiury Joseph, 40, from Liguan.

The mother of two high school students – a junior and a freshman – nevertheless went to Okkodo to check on her kids and brought them some lunch.

Interrupted breakfast

Neni Kunia, a cafeteria worker from Sodexo, witnessed an extraordinary breakfast setting in the cafeteria.

“The kids were all ready to open their milk and eat their cereal when we were told to vacate the cafeteria. I really felt bad because none of them were able to eat their breakfast. We were in a hurry because one of my co-workers was shouting ‘bomb scare!’ The kids left whatever they were eating. Some milk and cereal were left untouched on the table. When we were told to go back, the kids didn’t have time to eat because they needed to go back to their respective classrooms,” Kunia added.

The all-clear was declared in both campuses at around 9:30 a.m. and all students returned to class. Police are still investigating the bomb threats.

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