Theme II: Leadership | Free housing, free meals, fun programs and bomb threats?

by Ashley Ahn

When students sign up to become Resident Assistants, they take charge of a group of  fellow students, their well-being and their health. We sometimes take them for granted, and fail to remember that they add a group of complete strangers to their piling academic and extracurricular responsibilities.

Below, we have a story of one RA forced to move beyond the floor or base meeting to take charge of her resident’s lives. This is the personal account of Stephanie’s most terrifying moments as an RA living in Palladium dorm.

Because RAs are forbidden from speaking to the press, the RA’s name has been changed.

It was around 1 a.m. one summer night when Stephanie heard an urgent knock on her door. Another RA was at the door. A call from Public Safety to Palladium dorm had confirmed that the NYPD had received a bomb threat in Union Square. Their message was brief and urgent: All RAs were to begin evacuation of their residents immediately.

“I was just confused because it was so unexpected,” she said. “But then I started to worry and semi-panic.”

Stephanie immediately sprang into action. Still in her pajamas, she grabbed her phone and NYU ID and ran down the halls. More valuable items like her laptop or jewelry didn’t cross her mind.

“All I wanted to do was safely evacuate everyone and get to Third North as soon as possible,” she said. “So I was pounding on everyone’s doors as fast as I could. I just kept saying ‘Oh my God’ over and over again in my head.”

Death never crossed Stephanie’s mind. But nine years after 9/11, fear over a bomb threat in Union Square wasn’t irrational. As Stephanie reached the last of the doors, she heard an explosion.

“I was freaking out because I had never heard anything like that before,” she said.

But slowly, the directions learned from hours of training that all RAs were required to complete trickled back into her mind. Along with her fellow RAs, the team kept their head and herded students out the exit calmly. It took everything for Stephanie to keep up a poker face for her residents. As her students merged with other floors, Stephanie’s priorities changed from safeguarding her floor to protecting the indistinguishable mob of students that had congregated in the lobby.

As Stephanie walked with her fellow RAs with the students over to Third North, she remained highly alert, determined to carry out all parts of her job before she took a moment to rest. It was a muggy summer night, and to passersby it must have looked like “a slumber party gone wrong,” she said.

A fellow RA informed Stephanie that Union Square had been evacuated. Cops had surrounded the parameters of the park. No information was available yet.

By the time they reached Third North, a long night lay ahead of them still. Sitting in the Third North dining hall at 2 a.m., Stephanie’s nerves relaxed when she saw that her floor was safe. Hours went by, but Stephanie tried her best to allay any concerns.

Later, the group learned that, fortunately, the bomb threat had been just a suspicion. The explosion Stephanie heard had been the police blowing out the windows of a suspected vehicle.

Relief immediately washed over her as the nights events finally began to take their toll on Stephanie’s body. Thankfully, nothing serious had resulted by the end of the night. Though taxing, she knew the experience served as a practice run for RAs and the building staff. Though Stephanie now looks back on the night with great relief and a sense of humor, she will never forget the raw emotion she felt. A living example of the close knit nature of RAs, Stephanie refused to accept any credit for the role she played that night.

“We work as a team. We aren’t typed for every type of situation that could be headed our way, but were able to gather our thoughts quickly and pull together to manage everything that was going on.”

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