20 years since DGN bombing attempt

Jill Anthony, A&E Editor

October 20, 1999: just 20 years ago, students were evacuated from the school due to a homemade bomb being found in a boys’ bathroom. 

“I don’t remember much [from that day], but I remember that I was in PE the period before, and it was the fire alarm going off that got us all out of class,” social studies teacher Amy O’Dell, who was a sophomore at the time, said.

The bomb was made out of a soda bottle and disguised with the intention to injure people. There were wires and bolts secured around the bottle which is why it drew attention. Students were quick to alert staff members about the suspicious bottle in the bathroom.

“It was a 2-liter bottle and it was filled with a reactant that when tightened, it would blow,” social studies teacher John Wander said.

Pete Ventrelli, a teacher at the time of the incident, was one of the first to discover the bomb during a routine bathroom check.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a bomb,” Ventrelli said in an interview with the 1999 Omega staff.

As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a bomb.

— Pete Ventrelli

The bomb squad was called, and ultimately decided that students did not need to be evacuated, but according to the November edition of the 1999 DGN Omega newspaper claims that staff made the decision to evacuate the building anyways to ensure maximum safety for everyone. Students and staff were evacuated from the school for a mere 30 minutes before being let back inside.

“Teachers were looking very serious, so I had a sense that something was up, but we didn’t really know exactly what was going on,” O’Dell said.

Before the bomb was found at DGN, there was minimal security in and around the building. 

“The building was open, multiple doors were open, it basically was a come and go campus, not literally, but it was very open and accessible,” English teacher Mike Tompkins said.

From that day on, DGN faculty and staff made it their mission to ensure that students felt as safe as possible in the building.

“[The bomb incident] really was the first genesis of this building to get into evacuation training beyond a fire drill or tornado drill. From there, we moved into shelter-in-place and lockdowns,” Tompkins said. 

Today, there are security cameras, trained guards, police blue-light systems, and alert staff members at DGN to ensure maximum safety for students.