MONIQUE T. VITCHE
Sara Semple, a junior communication studies major at the College at Florham, was honored last month by the mayor and police chief in Bridgewater Township for preventing a threat from becoming reality in 2009. Semple took information she received in a text message from the would-be attacker, a classmate at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, and alerted school officials.
Semple said she became aware of the threat when the classmate texted her saying that he would do something that would either kill many people, kill himself or end up with him in jail. She was a junior in high school at the time of the threat.
“I went to one of my favorite teachers who took me to the guidance counselor and then we took [the threat] to the police,” Semple said.
Semple said that after the suspect was arrested, he willingly gave police information detailing his plan to set off explosives at the school.
The suspect’s identity was withheld by law enforcement officials because he was a juvenile at the time he made the threat.
On Aug. 21, Semple was honored by Mayor Daniel J. Hayes, Jr., and Police Chief Richard Borden. According to Bridgewater Patch, Semple received the Civilian Award.
“To be honored by my town was unbelievable,” said Semple. “It had been so long since the incident that I did not really expect anyone to really remember it.”
She said that one of the police officers told her that she was his hero. “That brought tears to my eyes,” she said.
According to NJ.com, the suspect “was charged with attempted murder, possession of explosives, possession of a destructive device and attempted widespread damage or injury.”
NJ.com also reported that a second suspect from Immaculata High School “was also arrested in connection with the planned attack” because he drove the first suspect to various stores to get materials.
Semple has advice for students and others who may find themselves in a similar situation: listen.
“If you take the time to listen to someone who seems troubled, and just make them comfortable with talking to you, it can make the world of a difference,” she said. “This kid was angry because nobody paid attention or opened up to him. So once I showed him friendliness and attention, he began to open up to me, and that is when he told me about these feelings he had.”
Semple referenced attacks on schools, public areas and the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., saying that anyone in her situation should take any steps necessary to stop something from happening.