Victoria H. Jones ’17 was in bed when she heard fire alarms cut through her residence, freshman dorm Thayer Hall, shortly after 9 a.m. Monday morning. After scrambling out of bed to investigate the source of the noise, Jones quickly followed her dormmates out of the building.
“I didn’t brush my teeth. I didn’t brush my hair. I went with my night gown to Annenberg,” Jones said.
Like many of her fellow students, from both Thayer and three Harvard classroom buildings evacuated at the same time, Jones did not realize until later that the fire alarm was prompted not by flames but by an unconfirmed threat of explosives in Thayer, the Science Center, Emerson Hall, and Sever Hall.
Dawn E. Slack, wife of second-floor Thayer proctor Emily S. Lin ’02, recalled that the fire alarm in Thayer had gone off more than once last year due to burnt food in the basement and said that some residents might have assumed that Monday’s alarm was triggered by a similarly innocuous source.
“It was pretty stressful and pretty scary,” Slack said of the uncertainty.
The threats jumpstarted a chaotic morning during which final exams in affected buildings were cancelled and local, state, and federal police forces descended on Harvard’s campus.
Thayer residents who were taking an exam in one of the affected buildings were not able to return to their dorm, a situation that elicited frustration but also understanding. “Searching through a dorm can only take so long, so it’s just a matter of waiting,” Yukiye A. Koide ’17 said. “I wasn't really worried that there would be a bomb in my dorm because I trust the people who live in Thayer.”