Yesterday afternoon I emerged from a meeting to see the following set of texts and Tweets:
“Gunman on campus. School on lockdown.”
And the part of my body from my heart to my stomach just fell out.
I wasn’t flooded with disbelief, so to speak. On some level I’ve been conditioned through enough articles, meetings, and preparatory discussions to ask not “if” but “when” one of the communities I care about will be impacted by gun violence. But it did sort of paralyze me from thinking straight.
As a member of the Northwestern alumni board of directors, my on-campus associations and connections are tighter than most. In my head I saw faces and names of people who I knew would be in the area. I knew parts of the on-campus emergency action plan that would be going into effect for all current students. I know that this time of year, leading up to the end of the quarter, tends to be a particularly stressful one for students as the gear up for final exams.
I held my breath. I went into my next meeting, utterly distracted.
When I got out, another storyline had emerged.
“It was all a hoax.”
Now the university and police are referring to this as a “swatting” incident, designed purely to attract a large police presence to the university. It was likely not a coincidence that this incident took place on the same day as the student walkout where Northwestern students participated in a national walkout to protest gun violence.
Of course for one hour nobody on campus knew this. Can you imagine what it must be like to be barricaded in a classroom for an hour with mixed messages and confusing news flying around?
I don’t care where you stand in the gun debate: It is never okay to call in a gunman hoax.
The rules of debate are getting blurrier, to be sure. But yelling “fire” in a movie theatre, “bomb” in an airport, or “gunman” on a college campus simply to stir up public pandemonium is a ridiculously low move to pull. We are better than this. If nothing else, let’s all at least agree to fight fairly.