A Personal Account of the December 20th Break-In

By: Chana Ingber  |  December 26, 2019

By Chana Ingber, Staff Writer

It was 3:44 a.m. on Friday morning, and I had woken up to go to the bathroom. I was halfway to my bedroom door the first time the alarm sounded. Seeing as though I was already out of bed, I poked my head out the door, but didn’t see anyone in the hallway. I assumed it was a false alarm — a fluke on behalf of the system. I was still standing by my door when the alarm went off again, a shrill screech. I grabbed my coat and headed toward the stairwell. I saw another resident in the hall as well, looking just as confused as I felt. I began making my way down the stairs, but when I got about halfway down, some residents were coming back up and told me, “Security said everything is fine, go back to bed.”

The alarm continued to scream. The texts started to roll into our floor What’s App group: 

3:59: apparently someone tried to break in?

4:00: I know nothing besides that or if that’s even true

4:00: I’m really worried, I heard that someone tried to break in. Stay in rooms security said, shattered glass by the front door

4:00: Lock your door for safety

4:04: Stay in your rooms it’s chill guys

4:19: Hi! The front door had broken which sends the alarm off but they are dealing with the situation now and there is no need to worry! Automatically the fire dept and NYPD are notified when our alarms go off so they are both here. Everything is safe, so no need to worry! You can go back to sleep 💓 [From a Resident Advisor]

Later that morning, there were various rumors circulating, which ranged from, “The door just broke,” to “There was an attempted break in.” At 11:25 a.m., the first of what is now four emails, was sent to students from the administration.. The email lacked information, stating that some students “may have heard the fire alarm,” assuring us that an arrest was made. But who was arrested, and why? Was it a student who pulled the fire alarm? The second email gave more details and would have left me satisfied, had I not received an influx of data from The New York Times on Saturday night. YU Housing let us know that “security called NYPD immediately. FDNY came because a fire alarm went off in the back lounge.” Nowhere in the email did it mention that the fire and the break-in were connected. 

On Saturday night we received yet another email, likely because YU Housing realized that there was a lot of information released in the media, and they wanted more control of the narrative. Information in this email conflicted with the reports in the media, such as the number of fires set during the break-in. I would like to believe the people in YU Housing, but considering they neglected to release this information sooner, I’m not sure who to believe. Their email also stated that residents were instructed to stay in their rooms — these instructions were either given to us by OTHER RESIDENTS who WENT DOWNSTAIRS during the break-in, or sent via text by Resident Advisors 20 minutes after the initial break-in. 

The fourth email, sent Monday at 6:34 p.m., may be the most upsetting. It once again reiterated the facts that we have been told via previous emails or the media, but some information was changed, such as what was used to light the fires (I’ve heard three different versions of this by now). There are some blatant lies in the email, for example: “When the fire alarm went off, residents were instructed to stay in their rooms via fire intercom system.” This is false. Nothing was said over the intercom system until 4:20 a.m., which was 35 minutes after the first alarm sounded. 

I don’t like that I’ve been lied to. I don’t like that I don’t feel safe in my home. I don’t like that it’s almost as though this has been “excused” because it wasn’t classified as a hate crime. If he had cried, “I hate the Jews,” while he smashed through our door or set fires in our lounge, would the circumstances be different? Is it not enough that he broke in while we slept? My heart pounds in my chest when I approach the dorm building, when I enter the elevator, or when I climb the stairs. My head swims with worry at night, terrified that someone will jump through the cardboard that now stands in the door where glass used to be. I jump at the faintest of sounds, like the humming or clicking of the heater. I shouldn’t have to live in fear, but that’s how it is now.