Bomb scare rattles Harvard campus

No devices found; some students suspect a hoax

Joe Palana had just sat down for the last exam of his first semester at Harvard Monday when alarm bells pierced the silence at Emerson Hall. Like others around him, the freshman from Rockland thought it was just a fire drill, so he left his bag. But he grabbed his coat.

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That made him luckier than some of the hundreds of Harvard students and faculty who were displaced at 9 a.m. by a bomb scare and walked out in their shirtsleeves or without their university ID cards, only to be locked out for hours as law enforcement swept the campus over what officials called “unconfirmed reports of explosives.”

Police ultimately found no suspicious devices, but the threat, which officials said came via e-mail, drew an array of emergency responders and a throng of reporters to Harvard, eight months after the attack on the Boston Marathon. In Washington, President Obama was briefed.

But the mood on campus seemed to shift quickly from fear toward curiosity, annoyance, or indifference, long before the last of the four evacuated buildings was deemed bomb-free around 3 p.m. Almost from the start, officials called the evacuation a result of “an abundance of caution,” and many students speculated that the threat was an exam-period hoax.

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