When Sachem East was built seven years ago, school district administrators hoped it would serve has a beacon from its high location near Bald Hill in Farmingville.
With Hurricane Irene on a path of destruction up the east coast, more than 250 came to the Suffolk County high school for refuge.
“I came to see if it was open first,” said Robert Powers, 50, of Holbrook. “Then I started helping out, putting cots together.”
Powers, who graduated from Sachem High School in 1979 and works in the welding industry, said folks look frightened for their loved ones and pets as they set up in the gymnasium.
Maxine Garrell, 52, from Miller Place, listened to what emergency professionals were saying on television and figured, “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s better to pre-plan and get everyone safe.”
Garrell was one of many to rave about the accommodations provided by the American Red Cross.
“They did a fantastic job,” said Garrell, who left two pets behind at home during the storm. “Everything was coordinated very well. It’s the safest you’d want it to be.”
Sachem Superintendent James Nolan stopped by to check on Red Cross workers and to lend a hand if needed.
Holly Payne Nelson, 65, of Patchogue, spoke to her brother in Texas, who advised her to get to higher ground. She lives eight blocks from the water on the south shore.
“I found it quite stressful,” said Nelson, who spent part of her life growing up near Cape Hatteras, N.C., so she's used to tropical storms and noreasters.
The volunteer workers, however, made her stay in Farmingville worth the trip.
“They are beautiful people,” she said. “Facilities were in superb condition. It’s been relaxing and enjoyable and they didn’t hesitate to cater to our whims.”