Column: Staring terror in the face

The anthrax scare that came to The Oracle last week was to say the least, disruptive – proving this terrorist tactic a success.I received a phone call around 10 p.m. last Monday.It was our adviser, Jay Lawrence.

“I need to speak to the staff,” he said. “Make sure no one leaves.”

He was on his way to the newsroom for something very important. He couldn’t get into details on the phone, he said.

Unsure of what to expect, I paced the office after telling the staff Mr. Lawrence was on his way to see us.

“Calm down, Kevin,” people started saying.

I didn’t respond to what seemed to be an impossible request to honor.

Joe Clark, The Oracle’s production manager, has worked here for more than a decade. Even he had no clue what could be so important that Mr. Lawrence would come in to stop us from working two hours before our deadline.

I checked The Oracles that had been published in the past week, wondering whether some detrimental error had gotten in the paper, and he was coming to yell about it. (Which made me worry even more, because that wouldn’t fit his personality.)

Confident that we hadn’t made the largest mistake in Oracle history, I thought that some other terrible thing had happened. Anthrax at The Oracle? The thought had crossed my mind, but it didn’t stick.

Then I got really worried. Maybe someone had murdered President Judy Genshaft. And Mr. Lawrence was coming in to help us plan to write the story.

I was so caught up in my world of worries, I didn’t notice that Mr. Lawrence had arrived at the newsroom. With him was Dr. Egilda Terenzi from Student Health Services and one of the university’s associate vice presidents, Wilma Henry.

From the time the news was delivered that a part-time Oracle employee had opened an envelope with white powder in it, I felt like a victim.

Everything that had happened from Sept. 11 until that moment seemed distant. Sure, I had watched as the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. But those things happened in New York and Washington, D.C. The only link I had to the terrorist attacks was as a journalist reporting on the tragedies.

But last Monday, terror came closer than I thought it ever would. It invaded my life. I wanted to fight back, but I didn’t know how.

For a week, Oracle employees did their best to keep going. We had a paper to print, classes to attend and lives to live. But fear would see that none of those things were done with ease – without us wondering whether we had been legitimately terrorized or whether it was all a hoax.

Test results would prove everything was OK.

Still I feel as if I didn’t do enough to fight back.

Maybe I did, and I have yet to realize it.

  • Kevin Graham is The Oracle editor in