By Shreya Thakkar
Sophomore Andy Gibbons forgot his extra credit science project, a Cartesian diver, on circle drive on Tuesday Sept. 24 after playing ultimate frisbee after school. Little did he know that his forgotten project would result in a school-wide soft lockdown and the incorporation of the Maywood bomb squad less than 24 hours later.
A soft lockdown was called over the entire school Wednesday Sept. 25, for almost two hours, not permitting students to leave their classrooms. It was called after Gibbons’ cartesian diver was found in circle drive, by a student who mentioned the object to the administration. Believing it could be a potential bomb threat, the school administrators wanted to take the precautionary measures to keep students safe.
According to Associate Principal Greg Minter, the bottle was found in circle drive at 9:35 a.m. and looked as if it had the makings of a bomb because of the paper clips, washer and floating objects within it. Immediately, the Mount Prospect Police were called, and soon after the Maywood bomb squad from 22 miles away was requested because Mount Prospect didn’t have the specialists required to take a look at the bottle. It took 45 minutes for the bomb squad to arrive.
At 11:30 a.m, the police and bomb squad deemed the object to be neutralized, after shooting it with a pellet gun and deeming it unresponsive. However, while it produced no threat, they still believed it was an attempt to make a bomb.
The police did not realize that it was a science project until ten minutes later when the police looked through windows of cars in the parking lot and saw a similar object in the backseat of a student’s car. The student was then identified by the car’s license plate number and consulted as to what the objects were for; from this, the police and administrators learned that it was a science project assigned to sophomore chemistry classes.
While all of this was occurring, rumors of the cause of the soft lockdown were flying all over Prospect, ranging from a murderer on the loose to the morning’s train tragedy. Before the official word was released by administration explaining the reason for the lockdown, senior Kevin Joyce thought it was because the elderly man was struck by a train, and it would have been best for the students to remain in the building. Joyce was in room 162 in his business law class when the soft lockdown was called. So, he looked up the events of the morning online, and was confused as to why Prospect would go on lockdown because of the accident earlier in the day.
“Just because somebody got hit by a train in Mount Prospect doesn’t mean a train is going to come and hit us at Prospect,” Joyce said.
Not only Joyce, but the staff did not know the reason for the soft lockdown either. Business teacher Lance Burmeister was in the middle of teaching his third period personal finance class about financial statements, when Burmeister’s boss and Assistant Principal Jovan Lazarevic came into the class asking them to move into the cafeteria. At the time, Burmeister didn’t know why, but he later found out that it was because his classroom was too close to circle drive and was moved for safety precautions.
“I couldn’t understand why we were being moved, and I didn’t know what the situation was that we had to be out of our classrooms but everybody else could be where they’re at,” Burmeister said.
During fourth period, Burmeister could return back to his classroom, and he could see police officers with rifles through the window.
At 12:44 p.m., an official press release was sent to all parents explaining what happened and the reason for the soft lockdown.
The chemistry teachers were notified of the cartesian diver, and it was when Gibbons’s teacher Nicholas Delboccio told the class of the lockdown’s cause that Gibbons realized the forgotten Cartesian diver was his.
When Gibbons found out that it was his science project that triggered the day’s events, he was nervous and afraid that he was going to get in trouble. However, when he realized that there was no penalty for his understandable mistake, he revealed that the missing project was his.
“I was like ‘oh wow,’ that’s actually kind of cool. I was a part of something,” Gibbons said.
Even though in the end it only turned out to be a science project, Minter believes that all the steps taken were necessary to ensure the safety of Prospect students.
“You don’t know [whether or not it’s a safety concern], and you don’t want to err on the other side of it [and have something bad happen],” Minter said.