Two groups of Georgia high school students weathered the worst of Hurricane Sandy’s assault on New York City.
The mock trial teams from Jonesboro High School and the Atlanta International School placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in world championships held there over the weekend, but were caught when airlines began canceling flights ahead of the so-called superstorm.
“This was definitely the biggest adventure I’ve ever had,” Jonesboro senior Breanna McKnight said in a phone interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday from her Brooklyn Heights hotel. “It was really great seeing New York City for the first time. And it was really crazy watching how much it changed” during the storm.
Breanna was one of several students who were in New York for the first time, team adviser Anna Cox said.
“For many of them, it was their first time on a plane, or their first time traveling without their parents,” she said of the 15 Jonesboro team members. “And their first time experiencing a hurricane.”
Many of the students stayed awake Monday night as winds reportedly topping 100 mph battered the hotel they were in about a half mile east of the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.
“There was really a lot of rain, and it was coming down sideways,” Jonesboro senior Callie Christian said. “And the wind blew one of the windows open … that really freaked us out.”
Sandy – downgraded to a post-tropical storm since landfall – has been blamed for dozens of deaths and is responsible for untold amounts of damage stretching from metro Atlanta and North Carolina to as far north as Connecticut and Cleveland.
Grady High School’s mock trial team managed to escape the storm, skipping later contests on Sunday to fly out early, Atlanta Public Schools officials said.
The area where the students were staying didn’t appear to be as hard hit as lower Manhattan, Rockaway, Queens, Atlantic City and other coastal locations, Cox said.
Still, she was astounded by the ferocity of the storm.
“I was surprised at how hard the wind blew,” Cox said.
But the Jonesboro High students were able to find a silver lining in the hundreds of miles of storm clouds.
“Most of us are just trying to look on the bright side of it,” freshman Taylah Dash said. “We’re mostly just exploring the hotel, getting closer with our team members and trying to think of it as, ‘yay, we get out of school.’”
Atlanta International headmaster Kevin Glass said the greatest concern was the safety and well-being of the 17 students there from his school.
“They’re safe, and they’ve got plenty of food,” Glass said.
Both teams have plans to return to Atlanta on Wednesday, weather and flight schedules permitting.
“It’s bittersweet,” Callie Christian said. “I’m enjoying this time with the team. But on the other hand, I’m anxious to get home.”
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