By Kristen Harris
The majority of Florida Southern’s more than 2000 students evacuated campus in preparation for Hurricane Irma. However, for twenty-odd students, the FSC campus was both home and shelter. Rebecca Smith, a junior math major, was one of the students who found safety staying on campus rather than returning home.
“A ticket home was $1100,” Rebecca said. For many out-of-state students, staying on campus during the hurricane was the only affordable option.
Bill Langston and Mark Tuscan moved the students who stayed to Branscomb Auditorium on Saturday afternoon before the hurricane hit. Students who lived off-campus were bused over, and those who lived on-campus had Safety available to help them move their things.
The students went in through Honeyman Pavilion, where board games and a popcorn machine were set up for the students to enjoy. When the weather worsened, students were moved downstairs near the practice rooms, where mattresses had been set up to accommodate them.
“They told us to pick a mattress and make ourselves at home,” Rebecca said.
Where the students were housed, a makeshift cafeteria served simple meals, such as eggs, deli sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese. They had access to snacks and drinks at all times.
“We had a lot of chicken,” Rebecca said. “We had a lot of broccoli, too. It was like every meal.”
While they still had access to the internet, students grouped together to stream movies or just gather around to talk.
“There was a group who kept watching ‘Insidious.’ There was an anime group,” Rebecca said. “Then there were some of us who just laid on our beds and watched Netflix.”
When the power went off, students traded out their laptops for card games. Branscomb was hooked to a generator, however, so they weren’t without power for long.
Students spent six days in Branscomb. Monday, Provost Kyle Fedler offered to let students come over to his house to take showers. Staff members drove the students over four at a time.
“None of us had had showers since Saturday,” Rebecca said. “He has three showers in his house, so it worked out pretty well.”
Once Hurricane Irma passed through, faculty and staff returned to campus to clean up after the storm. Several of the students who had been sheltered on campus asked if they could pitch in. Students picked up branches and other debris, moving it into bigger piles to be removed later on.
“When we first started, we didn’t have any rakes yet. There were these big palm branches that had fallen, so we used them as brooms,” Rebecca said.
The students spent Thursday night in residence halls that already had their power restored. Many students slept in JR and Spivey halls. Students were allowed to move back into their own rooms after lunch on Thursday.
“You had your own space again. You could turn the light off to sleep,” Rebecca said. “Think of not being able to have your own space or be anywhere by yourself for six days.