By Jonnie Gummo, Simmons Hall Front of House Manager
When reports of explosions at the Boston Marathon quickly spread across the Charles River to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the entire campus community stopped what it was doing. Students and employees scrambled to attempt to reach loved ones, to check on them as well as reassure that they themselves were all right. As the city went into shock, Bon Appétit employees gathered with students around radios, televisions, and computers, waiting for news.
When the smoke cleared, the Boston area was on edge, but the Bon Appétit team at MIT tried to maintain a semblance of “business as usual.” But around 11 p.m. on April 18, Simmons Hall’s late night cashier, Iyunolu Adedeji, received word that there had been a shooting on campus. With beloved young Officer Sean Collier down and his gunman on the loose, MIT officials immediately put the campus on lockdown and ordered Iyun to close the café.
Simmons Hall front of House Manager Jonnie Gummo was still awake with her eyes glued to the news when she received the call around 6 a.m. from General Manager Lauren Patterson.
“There’s been another shooting, and there is no public transit. We need all available hands on deck.”
And with that, it was time to find a way to feed people.
As reports spread of shootouts and explosives being recklessly tossed about, Bon Appétit managers, administrators, and staff reported for duty to their respected halls and went to work as cooks, dishwashers, cashiers — whatever was needed. At Simmons Hall, Utility Worker Lavell Chapman put on a chef’s coat for the morning and prepared breakfast side-by-side with Marietta Lamarre, Bon Appétit’s controller for the complex.
When it was realized that the “shelter in place” order might continue indefinitely, it was announced that all halls would also offer a lunch service — uncommon in most facilities. Once again, Bon Appétit team members rose to the occasion and were able to offer lunch to hundreds of grateful MIT students, staff, and police officers.
As the day wore on, more workers were able to make it in to help get dinner on the table. Katherine Bland-Vaz, a temporary employee, said in response to thanks from her supervisor: “You don’t thank me today. We’re not here to make money right now. Today, we’re here for the students.”
At NEXT House and Simmons Hall, students formed lines to donate guest passes to ensure that no one went without food. With the massive and unexpected influx of business, managers scurried from house to house, bartering products to keep their operations running smoothly — all the while having to be mindful of their own safety.
Bon Appétit’s steadfast service did not go unnoticed. Students lingered after dinner to help with clean up, teams received applause, and staff members are still hearing the resonant “Thank You” all over campus.
“We can’t believe you’re here, but I don’t know what we would have done without Bon Appétit,” said Nathan Kipness, Simmons Hall student president. “Thank you for conducting business as usual.”