They saw the SWAT teams, armed to the hilt, converging on the school.
"I just heard active shooter. That's all I heard---active shooter at the school. I don't know," said Zoronda Mitchell who has a 9-year-old daughter at KIPP Academy.
But as police locked down the pair of charter schools in Northwest Baltimore and blocked off the streets surrounding the school, tension rose among the parents being stopped within sight of the school.
Related: PHOTOS | KIPP Academy on lockdown
"My son goes to the school! I need to know what's going on!" screamed a woman who police kept from crossing the line at Woodland Avenue.
The parents spent almost three hours awaiting word of their children and who may be trying to harm them.
"There (are) five people in there with a gun. There's one intruder. It's one person with a gun. I just don't know what's going on,” said parent Chawnta Tilghmen. “I just want my kids. That's all I know."
Ultimately, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake emerged from the campus with the police brass in tow to offer some assurance to the families.
"All of the students and teachers and faculty at the school are safe. Evacuations have started," Rawlings-Blake said.
Evacuations of students to nearby Poly-Western High School even though the tactical teams had already located the subject behind the scare; a mild-mannered young man with glasses, a button-down shirt and trousers who could be seen carrying a camera tripod, which looked uncannily similar to the guns.
SWAT team members saw the man holding the tripod as they escorted him to an armored vehicle.
"We think we've identified what we think has been misidentification,” said Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, “We believe it's been a gentleman of caucasian decent with a tripod, a camera tripod, and the little kids there thought it was something else."
It was news, which shed light on the false alarm and might have been more comforting to parents, if they hadn't spent hours upon hours left in the dark.
"I have a son in there and a nephew,” said parent Tanieka Rice. “I mean we didn't get any alerts from the school. No nothing."
"Anywhere else we get text alerts and everything else, but when it comes to the kids in Baltimore City, we don't get nothing,” said Angie Jacquet. “We got to find out from hearsay and word of mouth that something is going on."
Police believe the man with the tripod had permission to be at the school, and they called the students' report an "honest mistake".