Hurricane Sandy destroyed property along the Eastern Seaboard, left dozens dead and millions without power, but a group of North Myrtle Beach High School students did their best to turn a negative experience into a positive one as they waited out the storm this week in a Brooklyn, N.Y. hotel.
The 11-person mock trial team took part in an international competition in New York on Oct. 28, but got stranded after Hurricane Sandy led to the cancellation of thousands of flights. They sought refuge at their Brooklyn hotel until flights resumed Thursday at LaGuardia Airport.
They were booked on a 6 p.m. Spirit Airlines flight and were due to arrive at Myrtle Beach International Airport after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Teal Britton, spokeswoman for Horry County Schools.
The teammates and their captains consider themselves fortunate that Brooklyn was spared Sandy’s wrath compared to other parts of New York, specifically Manhattan.
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“It wasn’t anything too bad in our area,” said senior Stephanie Pacheco, 17. “We were really lucky in that aspect.”
School principal Trevor Strawderman said the five chaperones were in constant communication with the students’ parents and the school about their situation. Also, the Brooklyn hotel they were staying in assured school officials that backup generators were on the premises.
The hotel never lost power, Strawderman added.
“The parents, I felt like they knew their kids were in good hands,” he said.
Fellow senior Kennedy Hayes, 17, said they all made the most of a bad situation by bonding with other teams who were there competing in the New York International Empire VI Mock Trial Competition. That included throwing a hurricane party.
“While we got stranded, we made due,” Pacheco said.
They made a game by using the mock trial they perfected for the competition, and twisted it around. Part of the reversal included having participants draw a strip of paper from a hat and adopting whatever accent was written down.
Pacheco and fellow teammate Allie Minarik, 16, moved to the Grand Strand in recent years from upstate New York.
Minarik was concerned about family members who lived in areas directly impacted by Sandy.
“It was scary knowing that my family was there and they had all this flooding,” she said.
As for the damage sustained in the Brooklyn area where the teams stayed, Hayes said there were a few downed trees, but nothing too severe.
Getting home proved a little more difficult. With flights grounded, the team was going to rent vans and drive back to the Grand Strand.
Then, their luck continued when Spirit resumed flights on Thursday.
Aside from being lucky in a storm, the team was lucky in competition. The North Myrtle Beach squad finished sixth of 36 teams from five countries who took part.
Pachecho herself was named most effective attorney after the three-day competition.
“I’m so proud of the team,” Minarik said.