Family in Fear, Greenville in the Clear


Today was an eventful day for me, wife and the kids.  I took my kids to school and went to a Doctor’s Appointment immediately after.  No, this isn’t (my biggest blogging fear) that this is a glorified status update to tell you about my mundane shopping/driving/errand-blunders.  Rather, my appointment was on the ECU campus for a follow-up on nobody cares.  The excitement and reason you should continue to read this is at 9:15am, I was seen for my appointment and after I was told I can’t leave the Center. 


There are sirens going off and alerts every 5 minutes stating that Greenville Police has the campus on lockdown.  All school buildings, including my children’s school nearby were hunkering down.   I’ll assume they were coloring on paper on the floor, practicing stop, drop ‘n’ roll or an impromptu nap time to keep clear from windows.  Their school is from 9am-12noon at a church off of 5th Street and Reade Circle. 
These were the same 2 streets where the “gunman” was first spotted. 


Time to freak out, I called to discuss with my wife who works further down 5th Street.  Since she works for ECU, she receives more updated information than the sea of sick people trapped with me at the School Health Center.  Their information came initially from where mine did…..Facebook and local news.  Since these people had friends on campus, rumors and made-up garbage began to fly.  There’s a sign all over the front doors that say “These doors to remain unlocked during business hours.” Is this true even in these situations?  At this time, everyone is still sort of skeptical; however the employees covering the door were able to see when people needed to get inside from the potentially lurking danger.  About 3-4 people came in who supposedly had appointments but they ran in, in fear.  How did we know these people?  No one checked their ID’s, just assumed that they were in the same position we were in.  Who knows? Had they looked at those ID’s we could have found that we were harboring someone named Gunman, Armed, a medical student from Yuma who has a fear of hovering helicopters. 


At this point, I know that the suspected “gunman” is coming more towards campus where I am.  No threat though, it’s a large campus with 27,000 students.  We are still getting the same school updates that tell us nothing new, so the people nearby in the waiting room are getting social and restless, much like their network of choice.  This became endlessly entertaining as it gave me something to write about. That and I found that my wife was able to get our kids picked up quickly and home safely. 


The first question I get is from a girl who (like the rest of my surrounding new-found unintentionally bonding friends) is about 20-something years old.  She shows me a picture on her phone of a man facing away, on his knees and cops gun drawn.  All of the buildings have walkways, shrubbery and the setting is between 2 brick buildings.  This is much like every walkway between buildings throughout this large campus.  So, no, I did not know where that was.  I asked her where she got the picture, she said from a friend on Facebook.  Of course.


At first the whole thing was alarming as I had obvious concern for my family.  Soon enough, I had concern for my new young friends who were completely engrossed in their social media of choice.  While this is concerning for our entire society, my real worry is that while we all thought this was real, they were sitting with their backs to the wide area glass windows.  Awareness of our surroundings may have been our first line of defense. 


So, there was a minor celebration that classes were cancelled, so those with their laptops went (again) to Facebook and Twitter instead of completing their assignments that would have been due today.   Then we realized that once they started handing out blankets and drinks we were going to be there for the long haul.  However, this is the best place to be as they can give us fluids as needed, not quite like the local bars, but it’s a benefit.  If there were any problems, there was a full medical staff on hand; the difference was that they were getting paid for notifying their Twitter followers that they may be Twictims.  


Here is the schools’ initial ECU ALERT-  Update

ECU police , assisted by Greenville Police Department and Pitt County Sheriff’s officers, are responding to an unconfirmed report of a man last observed on 5th Street in the vicinity of ECU’s east/main campus, who may be carrying a rifle.  The east/main campus is locked down, with all buildings locked, and students, faculty and staff members have been advised to stay away from windows and doors in the campus facilities. There have been no reports of injuries or threats on the campus.   Buildings are being checked/cleared by police systematically, with students being released to buses or relocated, location-by-location, as the situation dictates.   Campus officials will issue updated reports as they are available.


I arrived at my appointment at 9:15am; we were not released until 12:45pm.


The news online and from local TV stations was not telling much other than that there was a “gunman” sighted and headed towards campus.  The Local NPR station said nothing much more either, less than a minute to tell us the same thing and then told us that listener support is what allows us to enjoy shows like “Prairie Home…click.  


There is no doubt that this is a serious situation and an unfavorable trend in our society but this has a happy ending and Greenville and ECU campus handled this favorably.


Here’s the kicker.  I heard it 3 times before looking for more to research if the following was true:  realizing that even after 3 hours there, 2 hours home, not trusting social gossip networking and not hearing any explanation from TV, Internet, whatever. 


The final statement released from the Greenville Police Department was that the “Gunman” was a Greenville citizen, carrying an umbrella!


Although there was more than one 911 call made, police say that this was no hoax, it was a misunderstanding.  Buildings were cleared, houses were surrounded and one ECU building was even evacuated and had those occupants bussed away from the area.  


On a lighter note, during all this, my Doctor came out stating her knee hurt, asking if it was supposed to rain, she was right AND the guy (I will no longer call him gunman) was justified as it just started raining here. 

Under my Umbrella, Ella, Ella


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7 Responses to Family in Fear, Greenville in the Clear

  1. Jynet says:

    I clicked over from your post on FRK, and I’m wondering what you are scared of? The ‘gunman’? or the “more than one” person who misidentified the umbrella as a gun? or the police over reaction? I wasn’t sure from your post there, and I’m still not sure after reading this post.

    • ncdads says:

      My initial fear was only that I wasn’t with my family. We were all close by and the “gunman” was first seen at the cross streets which my kids’ school was on. My fear was short lived, except for social networking. My real fear came from not the mistakes by the people who saw what was described as an AK-47 Assault Rifle, and the amountof Facebook Fluff and bulltweet that was running through the rumor mill of the student center is frightening and comical. I never faulted the Greenville or Campus police as if they did anything less, they would be ridiculed. I think if you read through my site, the most consistent thing you will find is our natural reaction to our kids and the hilarity that ensues, much like the idea of Free Range Kids, which I embrace but have difficulty implementing when I have a 1 & 3 year old. Given that it was my time to sit and write what I observed, this post was largely about my experience and whether my readers agree or not, I felt the punchline wrote itself as it began to pour last night and did not stop raining until this afternoon. I am anxious to hear the first interview with the Umbrellaman.

  2. Beth says:

    I wish we didn’t have to treat our schools and other facilities like prisons when a man with an umbrella is walking around.

  3. Library Diva says:

    Something very similar happened in my community 2 years ago. There was a report of “a gunman” on the University at Buffalo college campus. Everyone freaked out, especially my boss, because his daughter attends school there. There was apparently no “gunman.” They never even matched eyewitness reports to anything caught on camera. It turned out to be completely unfounded. It’s one of everyone’s worst fears, I think, so everyone overreacts at the slightest hint that a second Columbine might be in the making. I think social media makes it worse, too, as people can instantaneously reach out to hundreds or thousands of people with their unfounded fears.

    • ncdads says:

      It’s part of our world to hear about these things, but we all have to try to be positive. We’re happy to all be safe and I’m the first to admit that I was frightened for my kids and wife as they were very close to the “umbrella sighting.” However I found a lot of humor in the end result.

    • ncdads says:

      Although I use social media sites to connect with friends old and new, I’m finding that it can essentially make everything worse if you pass rumors and hide behind it because you don’t have to deal with face to face. There’s so much statistical information and discussions of social media effects, particularly discussed on social media. Back to the subject at hand. Although in these instances, the threat was unfounded but the fear was not. Random acts of violence puts everyone on edge. Yes, the media oversensationalizes but I stand by my comments on the reaction of local police. If they did anything less than prepare for the worst, they would have been criticized to no end no matter what the end result.

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