A bomb threat that affected St. Thomas University, the University of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Community College on Friday required students across the province to evacuate or shelter in place in their residences.
Some students, like Maddy MacDonald, couldn’t get back to their dorms and sought safety in a local park, awaiting updates from UNB.
When MacDonald, a first-year student at UNB, and her three friends arrived on campus with their groceries around 1:15 p.m. on Friday, they were shocked to see campus entrances blocked by Fredericton Police and UNB Campus Security wouldn’t permit them to go back to residence.
“It was pure chaos,” said MacDonald. “We had no idea where we were going, but we knew that we had to evacuate and go somewhere.”
STU sent out evacuation emails and social media posts shortly after 1 p.m., along with an emergency alert 20 minutes later. Jeffrey Carleton, vice-president of communications at STU, said these measures happened around 30 minutes after STU received word of the threat.
Carleton said senior administration at STU, including himself, were aware of the nature of the threat, but faculty, staff and students were all given the same information, which only stated there was an ongoing investigation by the Fredericton Police Force.
“The president and the vice-presidents need that information in order to make decisions,” said Carleton.
The Fredericton Police said in a statement Saturday morning it wasn’t clear at the time which UNB campus would be affected by the threat. No arrests have been made as of yet and the investigation into the case remains ongoing, according to police.
Carleton said the decision for residence students to shelter in place instead of evacuating was made in consultation with campus security.
Joseph Debly, a first-year STU student, was on campus eating lunch with friends when a residence advisor came up to them and told them they had to go. They took a bus back to residence with some other students living in Rigby Hall – where Vanier Hall students are staying until renovations are complete.
“I’m a super fight or flight person, so I was super panicked,” said Debly. “I texted all my friends, made sure they’re all safe, made sure they’re all on their way back to the dorms.”
Once in his room, he said officials told students to lock their doors and close their blinds. Debly’s friend was with him, so they passed the time singing karaoke.
“We tried to make the best of it,” said Debly.
After roughly two and a half hours, he received an email saying students could leave their rooms and go to the Rigby meal hall, but they couldn’t leave the building. There was security presence in the meal hall, something he wasn’t expecting.
Students stayed in their residence buildings for the rest of the night, but Debly said residence advisors provided mental health resources throughout the process.
Despite having all of their belongings in their residence rooms, MacDonald and her friends were not allowed back on campus.
After getting the original evacuation notice, they parked nearby, assuming they’d be allowed back in after half an hour. Updates from UNB had the group under the assumption that students might be allowed to go back around 3 p.m. But every couple of hours, they’d receive another email delaying their return.
Megan Rodger, a first-year UNB student and one of the other students with MacDonald, said the group did a lot of shopping while they waited and played cards in a parking lot for two hours to pass the time. They went to East Side Mario’s after it became apparent they wouldn’t be able to go to meal hall.
At the restaurant, they received an email stating they couldn’t return to campus that night.
UNB prepared a shelter at McLeod House on Montgomery Street for students who couldn’t return to their campus accommodations.
“They said that we could go at 8 p.m., but it was very close to the university and some of our parents were really worried,” said Rodger. “So, we bought a hotel room for the night, just to be safe.”
Before going to the hotel, the students stocked up on essentials and some matching pyjamas, which they showed off in a TikTok video they made in their hotel room.
when they won’t let u back on residence bc lockdownnnn💙💙😀💙💙
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Rodger said the ordeal served as a nice bonding experience.
The all-clear was given shortly after 12 a.m. and students were allowed back on campus and into their residence rooms.
Rodger said although the experience was scary, they were kept up-to-date.
“We got emails every half hour, hour or so,” she said. “We didn’t feel like we were alone.”