— Thousands of students fled North Dakota State University on Friday after officials said they had received a bomb threat and needed the campus clear within a half hour.
The evacuation order came around the same time as one at The University of Texas at Austin, where officials also said they had received a bomb threat. Kyle Loven, an FBI spokesman for the territory that includes North Dakota, said the agency was trying to determine if the two threats were related.
At NDSU, a call including a "threat of an explosive device" came in about 9:45 a.m., Loven said. He declined to give more details on the call, as did Fargo police and NDSU President Dean Bresciani.
Bresciani said NDSU's main campus was evacuated, along with the school's downtown campus and its agricultural facilities. He said a sweep of campus determined it was safe for students to return and the university would reopen at 1 p.m., with classes resuming at 2 p.m.
Bresciani stopped short of saying nothing was found during the search, saying only that "the campus was deemed safe to be on."
Lee Kiedrowski, a 26-year-old graduate student from Dickinson, N.D., said he was walking to a class building just before 10 a.m. when he got a text message telling him students had been ordered to evacuate by 10:15.
Cars were soon streaming off the campus as thousands of people tried to leave the area. Kiedrowski saw squad cars at major intersections.
"The panic button wasn't triggered quite immediately," said Kiedrowski, who's studying infectious disease management and biosecurity. "But there was definitely the thought that we live in a different world now, and with everything that's going on with the riots at the U.S. embassies in the Middle East, your brain just starts moving. You never really know what's going on."
Kiedrowski started calling family members on campus — his sister is a sophomore — and then classmates to make sure they were leaving. He picked up friends and headed to his house off-campus, where about seven people were waiting to get the all-clear.
Students were notified of the evacuation by email and automated phone calls. Messages also went out via social media, such as Facebook.
Freshman Caleb Helbling, of Faribault, Minn., said he was walking into an engineering class just before 10 a.m. when someone else came in and said there was a bomb threat and students needed to leave. As he was walking out, he received an automated call to his cell phone about the evacuation. He went to a Pizza Hut kitty-corner from campus to pass time and have lunch.
Later, Helbling said he thought university officials handled the situation "pretty well."
"It seems like they got people out fast enough and everything," he said.
Thomas Brown, of Sartell, Minn., president of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, said students weren't told where to go but just to "walk to locations off campus." Since his fraternity house is off-campus, he and other members went there.
Brown said he was scared by the thought that there might be a connection between the NDSU and Texas threats.
"It's crazy to think that it is happening on opposite ends of the country," he said. "North Dakota is a very safe state. There are a lot of nice people. To have something happen along these lines is a little sad."