YOU’VE heard the saying ‘the calm before the storm’... well, the Bar Mock team from Dalriada School are now enjoying the ‘calm after the storm’.
The team, including 11 pupils and teachers Miss Susan Gregg and Miss Louise Crawford, returned to the sunnier climates of Ballymoney last Friday (November 2) after being stranded in New York following Hurricane Sandy.
They originally flew out last Thursday, October 25 to compete at Empire VI: The World Championships of Mock Trial and return Tuesday 30. However, during their visit New York was hit by a Category 1 superstorm causing total lock down.
Miss Gregg, trip leader, explained: “The day after the team arrived in New York, the news and weather channels announced the imminent arrival of a hurricane upon the North East Coast of America. We were told that New York would be affected quite severely. There had been no warning whatsoever of this prior to our departure.
“It was important that the pupils were informed of the situation; however it was also essential that we did not cause unnecessary panic. On the Sunday (October 28) we received notification that our return flights had been cancelled. It was at this point that we realised that there was little we could do: the team were not going to get home for some days.
“Monday morning brought incredibly strong winds. We ventured out at lunchtime in order to get some lunch and buy a few supplies as we were told we would not be able to leave the hotel once the storm hit later in the day. Indeed, after lunchtime, the winds were so strong that we struggled to stay on our feet!
“The hotel was excellent. Despite being fully booked they accommodated the team for three extra nights and were very reassuring at all times.”
Reassuring worried families and friends, Miss Gregg contacted the school via text messages while students frequently left comments on Facebook.
Miss Gregg continued: “The pupils were told of the severity of the storm and were updated regularly, however they were urged not to communicate this via social network sites as it would inevitably have caused additional anxiety for family and friends.
“Throughout the night the pupils were reminded of the severity of the storm as the windows creaked under the pressure of the wind outside and the lights flickered.
“At all times the pupils were relaxed and felt they were safe. They knew the hotel was as prepared as it could be. Parents were kept fully informed both before and after the storm hit New York. We received many messages from friends and family at home who were watching events unfold on TV.
“Although the storm caused an incredible amount of damage and flooding throughout New York, our hotel remained largely unaffected. The destruction caused became more apparent when we were able to leave the hotel the following day.
“A significant amount of time was spent trying to rearrange flights and transport to the airport. Initially we were told we would not be able to get back until Monday 5th November, however an extra flight was scheduled for Thursday 1st November, which meant the pupils arrived home on Friday 2nd.
“We could never have anticipated the arrival of a hurricane on this trip, however the pupils and their parents are to be commended for the way they coped with the events.”
Destined to be one trip the students will never forget, the team DID however continue to take part in the Mock Trial competition and did exceptionally well narrowly missing out on a place in the top 10.
Miss Gregg added: “The competition itself was a great success. A few American teams chose to drop out on the Sunday before the storm arrived so that they could travel home, however the remaining teams were keen to see the competition through and make the most of out the situation.
“The team from Dalriada did an outstanding job throughout each round of the competition, just missing out on a place in the top 10. They certainly provided some tough competition for their American opponents.