STATEN ISLAND, N.Y., Aug. 29 — Saturday night, Wagner College turned an emergency evacuation into one of the world’s biggest slumber parties, with the president, provost and other members of the college administration spending the night in the Wagner gym with much of the freshman class while Hurricane Irene passed over New York City.
The “party” started around 7 Saturday evening, just as the rain started. By 9 o’clock, the 372 evacuated resident students had arrayed their sleeping gear across the gymnasium floor. Intense conversations, group “ninja” exercises, marathon Monopoly games and periodic visits to the sandwich and snack line kept everyone occupied while the winds roared and the rains increased — and yet, by 2 o’clock, the gym was dark and quiet, and most of the students were asleep. The Wagner College students had turned a public safety exercise, meant to keep students safe in the gym, into something fun.
“This was the most orderly evacuation I have ever seen,” said President Guarasci. “The students were incredibly responsive. I’m very proud of them. There was a tremendous amount of leadership and cooperation and taking care of each other, following instructions, giving us great ideas. We kept them fed and dry all night. …
“It’s been a remarkable campus initiative all around — tremendous cooperation, a real sense of community. As president, I’m very impressed with the students, and very impressed with my staff, who just gave everything they had to make sure we got through this in a safe way.”
Provost McNair seconded Guarasci’s reflections.
“I have to say I’ve never spent the night in a gymnasium before. It was quite an adventure,” McNair said. “I’ve been so impressed by the leadership of the students, their ability to work together, have fun together, to really support each other during this intense situation.”
Three videos shot at the beginning, middle and end of the evacuation tell the story of “The Biggest Slumber Party Ever.” The last of these videos contains reflections on the evacuation by President Richard Guarasci, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lily McNair, and Assistant Director of Residential Education Matthew Hollingshead. Watch these videos on the Wagner College website.
HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHT: Wagner College archivist Lisa Holland unearthed a Wagnerian story from Dec. 1, 1950, about another hurricane that struck Grymes Hill -- but with much more destructive force. READ THE STORY in this PDF file.