A MEMORY I HOPE IS NEVER REPEATED

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Rhonda Oaks

February, 2018

All you need to get your day going and your blood pumping is a bomb threat on a school campus and sitting in the traffic jam that results from it. Just ask the officials at Hudson ISD or the hundreds of parents and grandparents who received the alert message from the school on January 31.

I have never been where there was a bomb threat until I received a call from my granddaughter at Hudson Middle School. Unable to reach her parents, her voice sounded a little frightened. I told her I was on my way.

It was close to noon when the school sent out the automated calls and announcements to pick up students. Maybe you have received a similar message. This is not the first bomb threat at East Texas schools recently. It’s not a message you ever want to receive and I am sure it is not one a school official ever wants to send.

Hudson ISD is located on SH 94 in Angelina County, a heavily-traveled four-lane roadway with a middle turn lane in some areas. I left the Lufkin city limits and didn’t make it far before I saw the traffic stopped at least a half-mile away from the school. What? Surely this was not the line of cars waiting to pick up their middle-schoolers! It was.

For whatever reason in today’s world, there are those who enjoy terrorizing others. This could have been no more than a student just staging a prank, but school officials and law enforcement took it very seriously. Because of the implementation of an emergency plan, students were evacuated to the high school gym to wait on parents.

Once I stopped on SH 94 it would be another 20 minutes getting to the campus. I watched as school officials, Angelina County Sheriff’s deputies, Department of Public Safety troopers, Texas Rangers, volunteer firemen, Texas game wardens and Hudson Police officers directed the sudden barrage of traffic, in addition to keeping east and westbound traffic moving.

I watched as law enforcement officials took turns hand-directing traffic while standing in the middle of the road. I counted at least eight law enforcement vehicles with emergency lights flashing parked up and down the shoulders of the road in an effort to warn oncoming motorists to slow down. It worked.

Once on the campus, finding a parking place was another challenge and once I did the line to get inside the gym to pick up students down the sidewalk. Each person was required to sign in with identification. Everything was orderly, well-planned and as organized as it could have been in this type of event. There were a few panicked parents who made U-turns on the roadway and stopped their vehicles on curbs and shoulders where they exited and ran toward the gymnasium, not knowing what to expect but desperately wanting to reach their child.

You never know how you will react when it’s your own when they are in the slightest way of danger. Parents will do almost anything to protect their children, and a grandparent-well, don’t even go there. As I heard my granddaughter’s names called to exit the gym, I am sure the smile on my face was bigger than theirs. We quickly made our way out and since they missed lunch, we made a run through Whataburger. It made their day – along with the memory of a bomb threat in middle school, a memory I hope is never repeated.

I commend area law enforcement, school officials and volunteer fire departments that worked together to direct traffic and clear the roadway in a very busy part of Angelina County. I don’t know of any vehicle accidents that occurred and all of the students made it home safely. Oh, and a big thank you to the bomb-sniffing canine officer whose nose didn’t find a thing. He also deserves a treat at Whataburger.

Author

Rhonda Oaks
Rhonda Oaks
Rhonda Oaks is the Public Information Officer for the nine-county Lufkin District of the Texas Department of Transportation. A Lufkin native, she is a graduate of Hudson High School and Angelina College. She has a background in print journalism and worked for many years as a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer. She has received eight Associated Press awards. Her articles have been published in many publications over the past 25 years.
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