Terrorism Scare at Rider University

Yesterday’s excitement…Powder scare at Rider University: Suspicious substance just cracker crumbs

PETE DALY , Staff Writer 08/11/2004

A suspicious letter found at Rider University yesterday was initially thought to contain a suspicious white powder, butinstead turned out to contain a harmless food product, possibly crackers, police said.

According to investigators, the powdery substance initially fell out of an envelope which someone had opened up inside the university?s student center late Tuesday morning.

Still, due to the recent terror scares, state police were initially called to the scene, and taking no chances, they opted to bring in the local Haz-Mat team to cordon off the building.

For several hours, about 50 students sat quarantined as investigators continued to analyze the substance, which was later tentatively identified as cracker crumbs, said Rider University spokesperson Earle Rommel.

The situation was also exacerbated by a suspicious note which was delivered to the Career Services Center, school officials said.

The Bart Luedeke Center, one of Rider?s largest building, was shut down temporarily as investigators continued to investigate.

One person reportedly came into contact with the crumbled crackers and was initially looked over by paramedics to assure his continued health.

Mail is commonly delivered to the career center, where students can seek resume help, look for jobs and internships and get information about graduate schools, according to the university?s Web site.

The summer class schedule will not be interrupted or postponed as a result of the investigation into the incident, Rommel said, because buildings that were unaffected will remain open.

The university treated the incident as a serious threat and the Luedeke center and nearby General Services Building, which houses the Safety and Security officers? station, were still shut down last night.

“We do know at some point the state police believed it was a suspicious substance,” Rommel said.

“The buildings remain closed with the ongoing investigation,” Rommel said. “To ensure the safety of our employees, the university is cooperating fully with authorities until we determine everything is O.K.”

Authorities flocked to the Lawrenceville Road campus yesterday and remained there early Tuesday night, a response that echoes the area?s fears of letters laced with chemical or biological weapons since four letters containing anthrax were sent through Hamilton?s post office in fall 2001.

Killer anthrax-laced letters were passed through the John K. Rafferty General Mail Postal Facility in Hamilton, the Brentwood facility in Washington, D.C. and a Senate office building.

Five people were killed and 17 became ill as a result of anthrax exposure. The cleanup costs for the Hamilton and other contaminated facilities reached more than $240 million.

Three years later, the anthrax attacks have not dissipated from public memory.

One week ago, federal authorities pored through the Dover Township summer home of Dr. Kenneth Berry, a “person of interest” in the unresolved anthrax attacks.

Berry, a doctor and weapons of mass destruction expert who was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, decried the lack of preparation among medical personnel and first responders in the event of a chemical or biological attack leading up to 2001.

He has denied involvement with the anthrax letters.

?The Trentonian 2004