How I saved my school in 1995

This is a secret that I have kept for almost 15 years now. I feel that now is as appropriate a time as ever to tell the truth. In the first half of the school year in 1995, I fell in with the wrong crowd. My friend Josh was troubled, more so than I was, and he began to associate with groups online and offline that endorsed hate and espoused propaganda. Most of this hate was directed at the United States, at our government, and at the people in charge.

Josh took things a step further than most would. He constructed a napalm bomb, and had begun carrying it around in his bag, showing it off to his close friends such as myself, and a few others, and I suppose he used it as a tool to empower himself, since he like me felt somewhat beaten down by the others in school.

When others did not take action because they were afraid or did not know about this threat, I did what I could to stop him. As we were heading to lunch one day, I asked Josh what he planned to do with his bomb. He glared at me and told me to keep quiet. I lied to him and said that no one was listening, and nobody cared. He then revealed that he intended to wait until the portable classrooms were headed to lunch, so that everyone would be indoors, then he would use it. I pointed out that this would allow his accomplices to lock the outside doors and chain them shut. Then he stopped cold and realized that everyone around us actually was paying attention – including the two teachers at the sides of the lunchroom entrances and the security guard next to them.

They were paralyzed with fear. But I didn't allow Josh to take advantage of the situation. I kept him talking and he had no idea what to do next so he just continued as well. I asked him how long a fuse he intended to use. He said he didn't need one. I didn't understand what he meant, so I had him clarify. He explained that he was going to light his cigarette lighter and plunge his fist into the jar of napalm. He said that the blast would kill anyone within a hundred feet instantly and guarantee that the whole school would burn down. With his other friends blocking the exits, even the fire department right down the street would have been helpless. I told him that was stupid. That he should try and find a way to escape. He refused, saying that that wasn't what he wanted. I continued to argue with him until he hit me and I went to wait in line to get my lunch.

The next day, Josh was arrested, after a “random locker search” discovered dangerous materials. The school's officials lied to the press and stated that there was no bomb, only bomb-making materials, that there were no death threats made, and that everyone was safe. For a long time I was very angry with them, partly because I had to sit alone at lunch the rest of the year, part because I thought it was wrong not to talk about this situation, that hiding the truth was some sort of sin. I realize now, especially in light of recent history, that there was some virtue involved in keeping this out of the public spotlight. I've seen people take advantage of other people's fears far too much now. But the people still need to know. Today is the 9th anniversary of a successful terrorist attack on US soil. I see it only all too necessary to inform you of one that was not successful.