The stealth e-mailer "J Feathers" ultimately failed at holding Delaware County Community College hostage.

That was the appraisal of students, faculty and administrators interviewed as they returned to DCCC yesterday. They emphasized that campus life had picked up pretty much where it left off Thursday, when two e-mail threats with the unusual signature closed the school.

As police watched over the college's five campuses, most of the 10,100 students attended classes - including at the targeted Exton and Downingtown sites - and expressed few concerns beyond next week's final exams.

"I was never really that nervous," said Keith Beaumont, 25, of West Chester, as he headed to his car after a Western civilization course at Exton. He held a notebook and a bottle of water - sans backpack, as required under new security measures.

Police from West Whiteland, Brandywine Regional, Marple and elsewhere were visible across the campuses. At the direction of the Chester and Delaware County district attorneys, backpacks and purses are banned through the end of the semester next week, and personal belongings must be placed in clear plastic bags.

There was no news from law enforcement as the investigation continued. Local police declined to comment, and Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll said yesterday: "I have no information to provide publicly at this time."

The text of one e-mailed threat, released earlier by police, said in part: "i'm sick of ppl stressing me out at tht school, so i'm jus letting u know in case that i'm going to get 2 weapons from a friend n i'm going to kill everyone at this damn school."

At Exton, where about 1,000 students attend classes in an office park, two patrol cars were parked outside the main entrance, and armed officers scrutinized anyone entering the brick buildings. A bomb-sniffing dog was present.

Beaumont, like others, attributed the upheaval to a prankster: "With finals coming up, somebody did something stupid. . . . I don't think anyone's that worried about it."

Police assured administrators that the e-mails - sent to eight faculty and staff members, apparently randomly selected - were no longer credible threats, Mary Jo Boyer, vice president for Chester County operations at DCCC, said from the Exton campus.

Several students and staff members took advantage of available counselors to discuss events, Boyer said.

"We live in a world where these types of things happen," she said. "It's the reality of life for all of us."

Jeff Salavitabar, assistant professor of business and economics, said he was pleasantly surprised at the nearly full attendance in his morning classes.

"Nobody can deter them from an education," he said. The attitude was one of "we're not giving in."

That confidence came partly from the police presence, Salavitabar said. "If we hadn't had extra security, I wouldn't have come myself," he said.

Colleague Danamarie Every, who teaches communications, said her students were eager to make end-of-term presentations and prepare for exams and graduation. "They want to know they can get back to normal."

Rachel Giardinelli, 19, of Chadds Ford, said that the e-mails had made her nervous, and that her Exton classes yesterday were smaller than usual.

"After Virginia Tech . . . it's scary," she said, referring to the massacre that left 33 people, including the gunman, dead last month.

At the Downingtown campus, adjacent to a housing development, signs warned students that "all bags are subject to examination" and directed them to use the main Rotunda entrance, where an armed officer checked IDs and kept a metal-detector wand nearby.

Carroll said this week that he intended to ask the court to make the perpetrator pay "for every day and every penny" of the massive investigation.

But to "eliminate anxiety," he said, he would back off that penalty if the person surrendered.

Law enforcement officials said they had interviewed more than 200 people and were reviewing evidence, including videotapes and computers, obtained through court orders. The FBI is assisting.

No suspect with the name "J Feathers" has been identified by law enforcement.

The e-mail author faces at least eight counts of making terroristic threats, each carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison, Carroll said.

West Whiteland Police Chief Ralph Burton, whose department oversees the Exton campus, said he wanted the perpetrator to pay the costs of the investigation, which includes substantial overtime.

"This is taxpayers' money we're burning up for someone who has disrupted the business of the college as well as police departments," he said.

DCCC president Jerome "Jerry" Parker said the college would pay the departments for the extra patrols, an expense that had yet to be tallied.

The college also posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

"I think people needed that reassurance," Parker said. "Our concern now is finding this person, the instigator of the whole thing."

Anyone with information is asked to call a special tip line - 610-594-9057 - or e-mail detectives@westwhiteland.org.

Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-701-7625 or kbrady@phillynews.com.