Interview: Sorcha Whyte speaks to the Mail from New York
A STORM that caused near shut-down in New York saw a group of students and teachers from the Harborough area holed up in a hotel in Times Square waiting tensely for it to pass them by.
The pupils from Leicester High School for Girls had to compete with New Yorkers to get food so they could weather the storm as panic-buying set in across Manhattan as Sandy approached.
In New York as part of a history and performing arts trip, the 38 pupils were accompanied by three teachers.
Speaking to community radio station HFM, head of sixth-form at the school Angela Lancini, of Kibworth, said: “Some of the young girls who haven’t been away from home on long-haul trips before, they were feeling anxious and a little frightened but we just tried to reassure them.
“We followed the advice of the hotel. They had taped up the windows in the foyer so were anticipating a lot of damage.
“But it hasn’t happened here, so it hasn’t been as bad and I think this morning (Tuesday) the girls are realising just how lucky they are.
“Our priority now is to get back to the UK.”
Mrs Lancini said parents who were anxious about their children being caught up in the storm had kept in touch through social networking websites and through the teachers themselves.
Sorcha Whyte (17), of Harborough, spoke to the media via Skype as the storm closed in.
She said: “We are in the middle of Time Square and it is pretty chaotic outside. We have just been sent to get more food and there is virtually nothing left in the supermarkets. Everyone is just panic buying.”
During a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on Monday, Sorcha said the group saw sand bags being put down in preparation for the storm.
She added: “We have been told we are not allowed out.
“We are meant to be going over to Washington so it is a bit disappointing but we are all safe and I think that is the main thing.”
Sorcha’s mum Sarah Whyte was keeping in touch with her daughter via mobile phone video messaging, and said the group were hoping to return to the UK yesterday (Wednesday).
She said: “She has been texting quite regularly.
“They are hoping they might get a flight back soon.
“They seem to be keeping in good spirits. She has said leading up to the storm it was quite chaotic.
“The streets had been clearing and the army was in.
“The buildings around them were quite high so they didn’t feel they got a true view of the enormity of what was going on.”
Sorcha said there were pupils with her from Harborough, Slawston and Lutterworth.
Mrs Lancini said: “It has not been fun but it has been a crazy experience I’m never going to forget, let’s put it that way.”
Harborough firm CDS Global which has offices in New York said its staff followed advice and no Harborough people were over there at the time.
Sorcha Whyte, speaking from New York, said: “Leading up to the storm we visited Ellis island and the Statue of Liberty.
“As we were leaving and the storm was approaching, many American volunteers were working to create barriers in an attempt to protect the city. Shops were boarded up and closed and sand bags littered the streets.
“All of Leicester High’s teachers have been fantastic providing us with constant reassurance.
“From midday we were told to stay inside but emergency service officers could easily be located. We stayed in our hotel in Times Square until the following afternoon however all the shops were closed.
“For us, the storm wasn’t particularly bad but just a few blocks down, there is mass destruction. The school has been excellent in ensuring we are all safe but our main concern now is food as shops are unable to receive deliveries.
“At the moment, we don’t know when we will be coming home and this is a real concern as many of us have exams or controlled assessments next week. One girl has her BMAT [BioMedical Admissions Test] on Wednesday which she needs to get in to university to study medicine.
“Unfortunately, we never made it to Washington and so won’t be able to visit the White House, which we were due to have a tour of this morning.
“Everyone is trying to remain really positive as we are all alive and well but now are main concern is getting home. “The storm may not have directly hit us but its knock on effects could be devastating for us.”
Sarah Jenkins, from Slawston, said: “The storm was an entirely new and quite frightening experience. The storm wasn’t really taken seriously until Sunday when we realised we might have to prepare for the potential of becoming trapped in our hotel.
“Queuing up in the packed Walgreens in a mad dash to stock up on food before the Hurricane hit New York was very surreal. The in depth reports of the damage done was really quite shocking when it’s happening around you. Now I really am grateful we never get hurricanes in the UK.”
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Weather for Market Harborough
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 6 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North west