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It was the last full week of August 2011.
The staff and faculty of Wagner College had been scrambling for weeks to find enough classroom space to make up for the unexpected loss of one of its primary buildings, Main Hall, for most of the fall semester while exterior restoration of the 81-year-old brick building proceeded. Amazingly enough, they had succeeded.
Then, just as final preparations were being made for freshman move-in and orientation, the Wagner College community was rattled by a distant earthquake, shaking everyone up but doing no damage.
Finally, just as the Class of 2015 was moving in to Harbor View Hall the morning of Thursday, August 25, weather reports made it evident that another natural disaster was headed our way: Hurricane Irene. For the first time in more than a decade, New York City was likely to stand directly in the path of a major storm, just as our students were moving back into the residence halls for the new year.
Decisions had to be made, and quickly. Would move-in be allowed to proceed, with a hurricane on its way? Should we wait and see the storm's effect, or should we immediately announce the delay of the first day of classes? Should we ask students already checked in to the residence halls to go home, if they could, and take a friend with them? Should we evacuate the remaining students? To where? And how?
It was a feverish 40 hours, from midday Thursday to the end of Sunday afternoon, for the team of more than 50 Wagner College staff members from Residential Education, Public Safety, Health Services, Athletics, Housekeeping, Campus Operations, Central Services, Co-Curricular Programs and Communications, ably assisted by our dining contractor, Lackmann Culinary Services, and personally led by President Richard Guarasci and Provost Lily McNair.
Weary as was the entire staff at the end of their adventure, they were also enormously proud of the way they had pulled together, and equally proud of the cooperation and positive attitudes the 372 student evacuees had brought with them to the Sutter Gymnasium in the Spiro Sports Center, where Wagner College staged what some have dubbed "The Greatest Slumber Party Ever."
This small book is a memento of that fabulous slumber party. It contains the announcements sent out by staff to the campus community and to college parents throughout the emergency, from start to finish. It also contains the 40 email messages received from parents by President Guarasci and our Communications staff during and after the evacuation, as well as a note from Louise Repage '75 Kaufman, the chairwoman of our board of trustees, congratulating the president and his staff for "weathering the storm."