Princeton, Minnesota Bomb Threats

Princeton, Minnesota, about five miles north of Zimmerman and thirty or so miles north of me, is the site of a rather odd event. Three “suspicious packages” were found around town, one by the post office, one at the high school, and one at the public utilities building.


The schools are being closed, and the packages are being investigated. I’m trying to find out if this happens to be homecoming week in Princeton…

UPDATE: Yes, it is homecoming week…

Comments

  1. #1 John McKay
    September 30, 2009

    In Minnesota, is it traditional to blow up buildings during homecoming week?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    John: No, that is not our tradition. Our homecoming tradition is to bring farm animals into the high school. This bomb thing would be new.

  3. #3 JohnV
    September 30, 2009

    At my highschool, students drove their tractors to school. Jerks took up too many parking spots, I might add.

  4. #4 The Dude
    September 30, 2009

    I’m actually from Princeton. I remember someone releasing turkeys in the high school during homecoming week.

  5. #5 Qtpies7
    September 30, 2009

    At this point it doesn’t look at all related to homecoming.
    The “packages” were devices that look like bombs, that is all we know so far.

  6. #6 Ashley
    September 30, 2009

    I actually go to Princeton.Look up your facts turns out they found 4 more.Totaling up to 7.This is not some homecoming prank.I’m sorry but no one in the highschool is smar enough to do that lol(:

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    What we “know” is that the officials are calling one of the packages an “incendiary device.” I do not trust police or officials in this matter at all. Once they have determined a package, or in this case several packages, to be possible threats, shut down the school, closed off streets, they don’t really want the packages to be nothing more than burning dog poop. So they exaggerate. Even make stuff up.

    I think maybe we won’t be hearing too many details about this until it dies down then we’ll find out that there were no packages at all, or that there was one package with a chicken in it or some other dumb-ass prank.

    I promise you that if there were three, four, or seven actual bombs in Princeton Minnesota we would know it by now. Sorry, Ashley, I’m not taking your classmates off the table yet!

  8. #8 Naomi
    October 1, 2009

    I to live in Princeton and what happened here today is not some high school prank please get your facts straight..Princeton and Zimmerman are also the fallout centers in the event of a problem or threat at the Monticello nuclear plants…just a little to coincedential. I seen what happened here today I seen the bomb squads taking info down of everyone in sight and searching cars and sending dogs…Sound You like a bunch of young kids who don’t understand the cost involved in a search and evacuation of this kind and in this economy….Sorry KIDS this was real pay attention to your surroundings and you might know this!!!!

  9. #9 John McKay
    October 1, 2009

    I couldn’t argue with that even if I understood it.

  10. #10 MJ
    October 1, 2009

    Those of you NOT in Princeton, your speculation tries to make our situation trivial. It wasn’t YOU that got the call to pick your children up at their (or other) schools because of suspicious packages found around town. It wasn’t you that had to explain to the kids why their school wasn’t safe on Wednesday, but that they had to go back on Thursday. It wasn’t you who’s entire security was shaken…so maybe you should get the facts straight. It is confirmed that one of the packages was an incendiary device…in other words, contained materials used to make a “fire bomb”. It is not confirmed whether there were “only” the three packages, or if four more were indeed found. HOWEVER, our small, tight-knit, community needs support & encouragement right now. Not a bunch of BS from those removed from the scene…

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2009

    MJ: I’m not removed from the scene. I live not very far from you, and I am absolutely certain that if three (or seven, or any number) of bombs were left around my community one morning I’d be upset. The school (middle school and high school) are almost in sight of where I am right now (a few trees and a couple of houses block my view of it). The main public building that would be attacked is a few blocks in the other direction.

    I promise you that if there was a Tornado in Princeton and cleanup volunteers were needed, I’d be there. I’m ten minutes away. If bombs went off and volunteers were needed to do whatever, I’d do that too. My wife’s place was ruined by the St. Peter twister, and she still appreciates the help that came from all over the place when that happened. I’m certain the other Minnesotans on this thread would help as well.

    Personally, though, I feel rather cynical about this sort of situation. I’ve lived through a number of false alarms and seen them on the news quite frequently. I’m an academic and I worked for years at a high profile university. we were getting actual bombs sent to us for years (the unibomber). As a supporter of science education, I used to get death threats via mail now and then, and some were packages. (These days they are via email so the threat of explosion is less!). So I have stared at a package and wondered if I should open it or not many, many times, and now and then I’ve simply handed the package over to the authorities, or opened it with a long distance tool so I’d have less chance of my fingers getting blown up. So yes, I’m pretty familiar with the whole scary part of suspicious packages, and I get what you are experiencing.

    But, when it comes to packages of this sort, there is a pattern: Suspicious packages are found. They are usually not really suspicious packages at all but mistaken identity. If this is not the case, then they are usually pranks. If that is not the case, then they are usually utterly stupid, and somewhat dangerous, attempts at doing something evil. And that is only a small percentage of the time.

    (The line between a prank that is utterly inert and a prank that is essentially a bag of dog poo lit on fire and placed on Old Man Beakman’s front porch is hard to define.)

    When the authorities encounter these things they are forced to make a big deal of it, because they COULD be real. But, usually they are not, and “the authorities” have not ever gotten good at stopping what they are doing and saying “No, this was not actually a ‘real situation’ .. sorry for the bother” So, with “suspicious packages” a very common way to handle this is to say the most extreme thing you can say about the contents without actually lying.

    I drove back from the cabin with a incendiary device a couple of days ago because I accidentally tossed the cigarette lighter I keep by the wood stove in a bag of stuff I was bringing back. Yes, I have seen such things described as incendiary devices. Reminds me of when Noriega was busted by the US Marines, and they claimed he had ten pounds of “white powder” in his house, and a picture of Adolph Hitler in his office. The “white powder” was flour in the kitchen, in a container labeled “flour” and the picture of Hitler was on a page on Adolph Hitler in the desktop encyclopedia that he had on his desk.

    I’m not saying the authorities have done the wrong thing in these cases, but I am saying that they are clueless as to how to stand down when the incident turns out to be absolutely nothing, a publicity stunt like what happened in Boston a couple of years back, a harmless prank, or a prank that is not exactly harmless but carried out by mere pranksters (not terrorists) and meant only to be a prank.

    The current situation in your town looks to me like it is likely to be a mistake or a prank. If it was a prank meant to look like a terrorist strike, that is a pretty stupid-ass and nefarious prank. But in the end, it is going to be one of your kids (as in “you, the folk of Princeton, not your kids i particular, MJ) that did it. Or somebody that is known to the community.

    So, what the authorities usually do is change “suspicious package” to “potentially harmless” or “some incendiary materials” and then they quietly investigate and wait a while until things calm down, then some middle school kid or highs school senior or some crazy adult is picked up and charged with whatever they can charge them with, a couple of weeks after the fact.

    Bomb squads across the US “disarm” many, many thousands of packages per year. None of them are terrorist strikes, domestic or foreign. Having the packages scattered about town like that is a bit odd, but the reason Princeton got on the news is not the packages, but the reaction to the packages. Sending the kids home might have been necessary, but I doubt it very much and it was probably the intended result.

    By your reaction, you can lose. And if these turn out to be real bombs set out to do real damage I’ll be the first to admit that I underestimated the severity of the situation.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2009

    Clarification: When I say “we were getting bombs sent to us for years” I mean academics in general, not my department or even my university. But I will quickly add that people in the biological sciences with labs are additionally threatened by firebombs and other stuff because of misguided animal rights activists.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2009

    Second correction: When I say “”suspicious package” to “potentially harmless” or “some incendiary materials”" I mean “suspicious package” to “potentially harmFULL” or “some incendiary materials”

  14. #14 John McKay
    October 1, 2009

    Previous sarcasm aside, I find it a little strange that some people’s response to a crisis is to rush to the internet and shout at anyone who they don’t think is reacting with the proper gravity. It’s one thing to snap at someone who says something within your hearing that you feel is insensitive or stupid. It’s something else to go looking for those comments so you can get outraged and yell at them.

    In the days before the internet I don’t think MJ would have dropped the kids off at home and then gone out cruising public places in nearby counties looking for someone to press her buttons. However inappropriate Greg’s or my or anyone else’s comments might be, we didn’t force them on the Princetonians, they came looking for us.

    There is something pathological about trawling for insults.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2009

    I’m sitting here reading the news, and so far I’m sticking to my story.

  16. #16 Stephanie Z
    October 1, 2009

    John, if someone is using Google to try to get more information, it’s quite likely that blog posts will also come up, particularly for something like this, with regional interest and only local news coverage.