I hadn’t even thought of this story in relation to the Ahmed Mohamed incident until I saw this tweet and realized that I knew exactly what happens when there’s really a bomb scare — because I’d once caused one myself — and that Ahmed’s story bore no resemblance to my own experience.
It was the summer of 2008 and I was installing WiMAX internet service for a three-story support building located in the middle of an Air Force base.
The project involved accessing the roof through a trapdoor in a bathroom on the third floor, setting up an antenna on the roof, running a cable down the outside of the building to the middle of the second floor, drilling a hole through the brick wall for the cable to enter the building, pulling a hundred feet of cable through that hole to the inside of the building, and then running the cable through various conduits and ceilings and walls to reach its final location in the basement.
I had finished drilling the hole through the wall and was in the middle of pulling the cable into the building when someone came jogging up the hallway telling everyone to evacuate immediately. I dropped my tools and filed out of the building along with the hundred or so other people who worked there.
We gathered at the designated evacuation point about a block away and watched as fire engines, police cars and an EOD team — complete with bomb suit and bomb robot — surrounded the building. Word quickly spread that there was a bomb.After more than a few tense minutes, one of the cops walked across the street to our group and asked if anyone was doing work outside the building. I bewilderedly stepped forward and said that I had been. He asked if had left some of my stuff outside the building and I said that I’d left my ladder and a box of network cable on the ground outside.
It turned out that while I was inside pulling the cable, someone had pulled up in the parking lot, seen a large unmarked box with a wire sticking out of it sitting by the side of the building, and had called 911 to report a potential bomb.
The cop asked what I was working on, and I told him, and he told me I shouldn’t leave stuff like that unattended. He seemed relieved that it wasn’t anything more serious. Then the fire department and police officers and EOD team all left and everyone went back inside to resume their work day. I went back to finishing my project, now with a funny story to tell my wife when I got home from work: “Guess what? I caused a bomb scare today!”
Of course, there are a few important differences between Ahmed Mohamed’s story and mine: I’m a middle-aged white guy with a boring name, and, unfortunately for him, he’s a 14-year-old brown kid with an Arabic name. And, because of that, he got shipped off to a juvenile detention center in handcuffs to be fingerprinted and interrogated and then suspended from school, while I merely had my work day interrupted for an hour.
Dan is the Executive Editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians blog. He is a writer, graphic designer and IT specialist. He lives in Montana, is married and has two cats.