I doubt this story is unique across the U.S.
I heard about this indirectly, from a lawyer explaining why a client had missed a court obligation. She’d turned around en route — in a hurry to pick up a child at school after hearing reports of fears of a terrorist strike.
Mike McNeill filled in the details on the Magnolia Reporter. It began last Thursday on rumors that a gun shop had made a large sale of assault rifles to “unauthorized individuals” (described as Arab looking in the version I heard). A report that somebody had been seen taking photos of an elementary school also had people chattering. These events followed something real — a utility pole fire Thursday morning near an elementary school.
More police were on the lookout Friday morning. Southern Arkansas University was prompted to issue a statement saying commencement would go on as scheduled.
McNeill did his best to tamp things down. He reported that law enforcement had investigated and found no basis for the gun sale report. Police found the school photographer and said they were confident he posed no threat to anyone. McNeill also sought out a comment from a store that got mentioned in the rumors. It said it had sold no assault rifles to Muslims. In fact, it said it had not sold five assault rifles to a single person ever.
But you know how it goes. Rumors can fly halfway around on the world, never mind Magnolia, faster than the truth can get its boots on.
McNeill said schools opened Friday, but lots of parents kept kids home or pulled them out due to the busy rumorsphere. It was, said McNeill, his fourth-best day of the year for Internet traffic.
No shots were fired.