Texting alive with rumor

Posted Nov. 28, 2008, at 7:39 p.m.

Weekday mornings at my house are pretty typical. Five people, one kitchen, a bread drawer, a fridge, a cereal cupboard, a silverware drawer and a coffeepot.

Once we leave the house our lives will take us in a variety of directions with various goals in tow. But for now we are one organized chaotic ballet with one goal in mind: eat, grab and go.

Tuesday morning this routine was going along quite smoothly. My husband standing in the middle of the kitchen in his overcoat searching each pocket for the God almighty checkbook, name tag, Palm Pilot and the right set of keys is clearly oblivious that his morning pat-down disrupts the morning flow.

We all dodge past the disruption, until Carlin, the 17-year-old, plops down at the counter and attacks her cereal. Between mouthfuls, she adds casually, “Oh, yeah, there’s supposed to be a shooting at the school today.”

“Yeah, there is,” the 15-year-old adds in. “I’m not even kidding. It’s like some guy said he was going to come in and shoot people.”

“It has something to do with the varsity cheerleaders,” the 15-year-old says.

Carlin’s one of those. The husband and I try to catch our breath and wrap this news around our minds quickly enough to ask sensible questions.

Apparently we fail. Both girls jump up and are pulling out of the driveway before we’ve really spoken.

We, however, were among the few who were speechless. For the minute this info started spreading across the Bangor High School campus, back pockets started vibrating like crazy.

The texting market was alive with the rumor and — just like the game we all played in school as children — with each whisper the rumor changed just a little bit.

Bangor police and school officials investigated and took the threat seriously, yet tried to alleviate unnecessary panic from what early on appeared to be a hoax.

But one has to remember that just last month an armed man took 11 schoolchildren hostage at Stockton Springs Elementary. Earlier this week a student at Maranacook Community High School brought a gun to school.

I was out of touch for the entire day on Tuesday and when I picked my daughter up from basketball practice later that evening, she informed me (in a her best drama-queen performance) that I was one of a small number of parents who chose to put their offspring into such a dire situation.

“Most parents kept their kids home,” she said.

I explained to her that neither she nor Carlin told us of any threat until they were on the way out of the door and therefore we didn’t know the seriousness of it.

“Well, neither did we!” she shouted.

And you know, she’s right. The speed of texting has certainly changed the speed with which such threats, real or not, get spread among the student body. Chances are they are going to be hearing things, real or not, before school officials and police.

But sometimes too much information can be as confounding as not enough, especially when that information is wrong or exaggerated.

Things worked out safely in Maranacook, Stockton Springs and Bangor these past few weeks. But it may be worth it for the entire student body to have discussions about the responsible use of text messaging during potential crises.

reneeordway@gmail.com

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