When they arrest the people calling in these threats, they are usually students. The real problem is that these students don't see the seriousness of these faux threats. They may be disturbed or mentally unstable. They may be unprepared for a test that is happening that day. They may just not feel like going to school. Or, they may just think it's funny, a prank. They also know that no one is taking any chances of any threat being fake after all of the mass shootings. But, they do not have any clue the magnitude of these acts of violence or the impact of the mere threat of these acts. This may not be true of all of them, but I do believe it is of many as a result of my first hand experience with such students.
About 16 months ago, a year and a half after the bombing, I sat in a room with a group of teens who had orchestrated a bomb threat. The reason for this was that I was asked to participate in a Restorative Justice circle. This was something I was immediately interested in when asked to participate. I read about these circles and spoke with the woman who was going to run it. You can read more about it, but basically, it is a way for victims to face the offender and for them and other parties to communicate about the experience, for the offender to take responsibility and face consequences and it gives the victim a chance to face them which can be very powerful and healing when done in the right way. Restorative Justice is used to help avoid first offenders going straight to prison. They must seem like they are ready for such an alternative, showing remorse and having no prior offenses. This is a better alternative as it will avoid them being thrown into the system, being labeled and as a result, being more likely to commit future offenses. After some research and participating, I believe very strongly in this process.
As I sat in the room with these young men, I did not see criminals, but instead, young, confused boys, the same age as some of my little cousins. Myself and one other person were there as "victims". The woman who was directly affected did not want to participate so we were sort of stand ins, able to give our input and accounts on what effect a bomb (or bomb threat) really has on those it targets.
As the discussion began, my leg started to bounce. This was a constant sign of my anxiety for over a year and then for a while, situational. It now feels like a distant memory where it used to be something I was so used to, I didn't even notice it was happening until someone would point it out. As we listened to the story of what exactly happened that day, my anxiety grew. I even had to leave the room at one point. I listened to these boys talk about how they saw the same prank online in a video and how it got a lot of likes and attention. That right there both struck me and sounded obvious. In a world where how many "likes" and followers you have is quickly becoming what's most important to young people, this made sense. The thing these boys didn't know was that the prank in that video was most likely completely staged. There was no "victim" because it was all fake. There was no person(s) that would be traumatized. What they did see was a way to gain popularity and you could tell, they had no idea the harm it could do.
The boy who placed the "bomb" near a woman, realized the moment he saw her face that what he was doing was absolutely awful and he immediately regretted it. I watched as this boy spoke, his face breaking into real, raw emotion in front of his friends, his parents, and strangers. I watched as the other boys and their parents wiped their eyes. And so did I. These boys really thought what they were doing was harmless. I listened to them talk about how ashamed they were, how their parents worked hard to support them and they had disgraced them.
Then, it was my time to speak. I explained to them in detail the feelings that I had felt the moments those bombs went off; a fear I have never experienced before, shock, a feeling that I may die at any moment. I spoke about the aftermath; the sleepless nights, the constant anxiety (I pointed out my leg, which I know they had all noticed quite a few times), the deepest sadness I'd ever experienced, and the long road healing from injuries that many faced. I told them I could not speak to what their victim exactly felt, but that it would be similar. All for a seemingly harmless prank. They cried even more. I also told them the effect bomb threats have on those who have actually lived through a bomb. I then old them that I could tell they felt remorse. I could tell they truly wish they could go back and they were fully aware of what they had done. I told them this was their opportunity to learn some very valuable lessons.
So, who is to blame for bomb threats? Well, of course, the person who calls it in. No matter the reason, they need to face some sort of consequence. They made a choice. But, they are usually just stupid kids who truly see no harm in it. The bigger picture is that there is a reason they don't see this as a big deal. They have no clue what a bomb really is, what it can do. They see them in movies, in video games, they hear of them happening (mostly) far away. Are their parents educating them on such things? As a society, we have become desensitized to violence. We talk about bombing people like it's no big deal. Bomb threats are not a new thing. I remember we had one when I was in high school. But, they were never as prevalent as they are now. Neither were mass shootings. Anger, fear, hate, vengeance, and violence are all too common and these threats and shootings are showing that. And of course, like the boys I mentioned above, kids base their whole identity on likes and followers and popularity, which adds another factor to why they do the things they do. Personally, I feel that the young people committing these offenses are a reflection of what has been happening in our society, in the world. We're all responsible for what is happening to our home, to the people around us, to the world as we know it. We all play some part, even if it's small and the sooner we realize that and take small actions in our own lives and impact those around us, the sooner we stop throwing blame around and stop letting fear take over, maybe things will change. As soon as we get to the root of the problems we and our younger generations are facing, maybe there will be more hope.
So, because I do with all things, I hold out hope that these threats and the mass shootings will lessen. I hope that the bigger picture is realized, that the roots of these problems is found and healed.