A bomb threat called into R.D. White Elementary school Monday morning that prompted an evacuation of the entire campus was determined to be a prank call, police said, but the incident served as a jolt to some parents as they picked up their children.
With the images of police responding to last month’s shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school — where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults — seared into the nation’s consciousness, parents who picked up their children at the evacuation point at the Whole Foods Market on Glendale Avenue expressed sense of shock and disbelief.
Stephanie Corona was grocery shopping in Burbank when she got the call about the evacuation. She immediately rushed over to pick up her third-grade son.
“It never crosses your mind that we might be next,” she said.
Glendale Unified officials said an anonymous call about a possible bomb on campus was received at 8:29 a.m., prompting the evacuation to the nearby Whole Foods, where store employees reportedly handed out oranges and water to the students.
By midday, police officials cleared the campus after an exhaustive search of the campus had failed to find anything, and an investigation into the phone call remained ongoing.
By 11 a.m. — as police officials continued to search the campus — the majority of the nearly 900 students had been picked up by their parents at the Whole Foods, with the remainder moved to the YWCA across the street.
“I was absolutely shocked,” said Ken Washington, who drove over to pick his second-grade daughter after getting the call while in a meeting at work. “I was surprised to see the phone call on my phone.”
Geetha Rajaguru was studying for a nursing exam at a nearby library when a friend called about the bomb threat at R.D. White, where Rajaguru’s 8-year-old daughter is in the third grade.
She immediately left the library for her daughter who was one of about the last dozen children waiting in the ballroom at the YWCA around noon.
Following the events in Connecticut, Rajaguru said she finally understood the feeling of a parent whose child’s life could be in danger.
“Today, I really understood what that feeling is,” she said.
Rajaguru felt media coverage of the Newtown tragedy spurred the bomb threat at R.D. White.
“Publicity plays a role in this — in my personal opinion,” she said. “Maybe people go after that publicity.”
Despite the fact that the evacuation went smoothly and as planned, tears welled up in Rajaguru eyes as she held her daughter close.
“That would be the end of my life,” she said. “This is my life.”
Classes resumed on Tuesday and police, meanwhile, will attempt to identify the caller — a task that can be challenging given software that can help people mask their calls, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.
Still, he said, “we have been successful.”
Lorenz recalled a similar prank call to a Glendale business several years ago regarding a bomb threat. He said detectives were able to track down the caller to a European country, after which detectives enlisted the aid of the FBI.
Monday’s incident, Lorenz said, was a “rude awakening” for the students and staff on their first day back to school following their winter break.
Still, he added the school staff was “well-prepared” to react and that the incident proved to be a “good exercise."
-- Kelly Corrigan and Veronica Rocha, Times Community News
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan