Heartfelt personal stories and details from some staff

BAR HARBOR— After yesterday’s serious and credible threat at Mount Desert Island High School, which prompted a lockdown and an eventual evacuation of students, staff and teachers to the Mount Desert Elementary School, the suspect was apprehended by the Bar Harbor Police Department.

The lockdown began around 12:30. The Bar Harbor Police Chief Jim Willis said he can not verify or state how that threat came in because it’s currently an open investigation. The same goes for the nature of the threat.

School was cancelled on November 2, but students and staff were allowed to return to the high school during a specific window of time on Wednesday afternoon to get their cars and things that they might have left behind.


During the lockdown and in some of the hours following, some students, parents, staff, and teachers had moments to share their thoughts about their experience and the community. One adult spoke of hunkering under a desk, feeling helpless. Others spoke of trying to figure out what was going on, of rumors and guesses about what was happening. Others spoke of concern for how to meet and find their children. One student spoke about being in a corner, waiting and waiting.

One teacher, new to the school this year, Cristy Lindberg Benson, was outside with her students when the lockdown happened and they ended up with two other classes, bushwhacking through the woods and off the trail to get to the main road.

From the main road, the students were picked up and brought to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. Those students’ parents were notified and that group of students was picked up from the center. This led to some confusion for some of the parents of other students who saw that some students were being taken to the center and assumed that their students would, too.

Wendy Haynes Littlefield was in the front office when the lockdown occurred and wrote,

“As I sit this morning with my warm cup of tea, my mind is still full of what ifs?? 

My body feels like it has been hit by a truck. Mostly my mind is full of “did I do everything right?”

Yesterday was one of the hardest days at our high school, my job for the past 20 plus years. I had to make the announcement….I have made thousands of announcements!! 

I saw the look and heard the voice that told me to put the school on lock down – this wasn’t a drill – lock down everyone now. We were in the middle day – it was a beautiful day and outside our window was 14 kids eating their lunch.

I knew that at least 100 of our middle school students were arriving shortly for a sing program. 

I went into auto mode…. I tried to calmly to make the announcement we have practiced before-but this time knowing it wasn’t a practice this was it?

“Attention – At this time we must go into a lockdown, please lock down immediately.  This is not a drill. At this time the school is on a lockdown. Took a breathe and said it again. At that moment in time, I knew that I had just instilled panic in 536 kids, 94 staff and literally had no other information. 

We took an extra minute and threw the window up to yell as those students eating their lunch, “Get in here, lockdown.”

We put them in our back conference room with another adult and closed them safely in, secured our office area and looked around before we were to take our lockdown spots. 

By that time, we heard a bus full of middle schoolers arrive-what do we do?  We aren’t supposed to be near the widow or let anyone in-but I couldn’t-I couldn’t let them walk into the unknown.

I went to the window and yelled – Get back on the bus, go back to your school, we are on lock down!

The bus immediately closed the door and drove away.  As I was closing the window to run back to my safe spot, I saw the UPS guy load his packages and start walking to the front door. I couldn’t let him be out there. I knew him and knew he had a family and a little one. I once again opened the window and yelled to him, “Get back in your truck and leave campus – we are on lock down.”

I heard his truck door close and drive away. 

By then the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. We are supposed to be safe and away from our desks…but all could think of was those parents who got the message – no contact and no information. 

I answered the first few calls, but I had no information – felt helpless – picked up one more call and it was Bar Harbor dispatch….They needed information – I had none.  Under my desk I sat for the next 30 mins or so with her – providing what information I could.

What did I know?  What did I hear? 

I heard nothing, silence in a high school at 12:40.

Tears started to flow … the phone continued to ring…and I gave her any update I had. She calmed me and I came back to reality and waited for officers to arrive.  We continued talking as she called more help, told me help was on the way and waited. 

The phone continued to ring and every time it rang, I knew it was another worried parent. I couldn’t help them. I felt so helpless. 

Then my mind came to my own daughter who was now my coworker and locked down in a room with her high school students and the babies she was responsible for.  My baby was responsible for others babies and I had to let her do her job and I had to do mine! 

Soon the driveway filled up with help.  For the next few hours we waited, listened, and just supported each other. 

To all of our parents who were so frustrated that we didn’t answer the phone, we couldn’t; we were trying to be safe too. I’m sorry.

To all the parents who just wanted to get their kiddo-we did the best we could to make sure they were all accounted for and safe. I’m sorry if you were frustrated with the process, but it worked. We live in an amazing community, we work in an amazing school, our staff were rock stars! Our administration and our police force were there for us all. Between the tears, fears and worry we all did our jobs and everyone was safe. Today I will be grateful that there are not more grieving parents! Today I will put my face to the sun and inhale the cool air. Tomorrow will be a new day at my job. Love and virtual hugs to all!!

Here are Heather Chute Dillon’s words. She’s a teacher at the high school that was locked down after yesterday’s serious and credible threat:

Today at school, I was meant to be creating Athenian and Spartan government models using Play-doh with my students.

Instead, I spent three hours locked in a small, dark room, cowering silently against the wall behind furniture with eleven students and another teacher.

I smiled at the students and gave them thumbs-up signs while I thought about teachers and students at

Robb Elementary in Uvalde,

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown,

Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland,

Columbine HS in Columbine,

and the numerous other teachers and students who have senselessly lost their lives while at school.

Were they cowering in silence like I was when the lockdown started?

Did they hear a commotion in the hallway?

When did they hear gunshots?

When did they know their lives were in danger?

Was there any warning? Would I know, too?

And then I returned to the moment in the room with the students who needed me now.

Would this bookend be heavy enough to stop an intruder coming into my classroom?

Could I throw that lamp?

How sturdy was that door?

Where would I tell my students to go if we needed to run?

Did I have “quiet” food I could give to the students in my room who had missed lunch and whose stomachs I could hear growling?

What if they had to go to the bathroom-could we use the recycling bin?

But wait.

What about my child? Where were they right now? Were they safe? What class were they in? Did they have their diabetes supplies with them in case this lockdown stretched on and on?

And then the parents-the poor parents who must, by now, know that we were in a lockdown and must have been beside themselves with worry about their own children. How could I reassure them that I was keeping their babies safe? I was doing what I could to protect them – how could I let them know?

When the police finally arrived and evacuated us from the room, I welcomed the light and cool air from the hallway.

I welcomed the armed men and women who guided us down the hallway to safety on a school bus to another school where parents and the media waited anxiously to see that those they loved arrived safely into their arms.

I thought of the teachers and students at

Robb Elementary in Uvalde,

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown,

Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland,

Columbine HS in Columbine,

and the numerous other teachers and students who have senselessly lost their lives while at school.

I realized we made it-we were all safe-we did not experience the same tragedy as so many others in our country’s schools.

And for this, I will be forever grateful, and I know we can’t let a tragedy happen again.

Susan Allen, chair of the high school board, and Jessica Stewart, chair of the school system board, wrote an email together, saying,

“No teacher or school staff member should have to go through the frightening and traumatic event you all did. Despite your own fears and worries, you kept classrooms calm, soothed kids’ anxieties and managed parental angst while reuniting students with their parents.

This was a tremendous and difficult service, done with strength and heart, and on behalf of the school board, we want to offer our deepest thanks for keeping our children safe and cared for.

We also recognize that this was a stressful and traumatic event for our community as a whole, and we are heartbroken that our kids and committed educators had to experience it.”

Schools should be places of safety, openness, and curiosity, not lockdowns and violence. Educators should be able to spend their time nurturing learning and creativity, not managing threats of mass violence. We remain committed to working with other school boards and educators to make these incidents far more rare and to support measures to reduce violence in schools and communities.”

Editor’s note: Benson’s story and Littlefield and Chute Dillon’s words are shared with permission from the three.


MDI High School Goes on Lockdown for Hours After Serious and Credible Threat, Suspect Apprehended

BAR HARBOR—Mount Desert Island High School went into a lockdown after a unspecified threat on November 1. The school went into a lockdown at around 12:30 p.m.. A press release from Bar Harbor’s Communications Coordinator, Maya Caines, sent at 7:41 p.m. stated, “A serious and credible threat was received by administration at Mount Desert Island High Schoo…

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