A small group of evacuees will never forget how they escaped Hurricane Irma’s wrath in a first-grade classroom at Prine Elementary School.
Thrown together by the crisis, the group, which could be called the Prine Pilgrims, chatted through the long nights, got catnaps on blankets or on first-graders’ desks and rejoiced because there was a bathroom in Room 163, a simple pleasure not every evacuee lucked into.
The Pilgrims banded together to help Claude Perkins, 85, who evacuated from a mobile home and had a stroke two years ago which left him walker bound.
“I thank goodness that everyone helped me,” Perkins said. Although they scoffed at the idea of a reunion at Prine next Sept. 10, the Pilgrims said they would always remember each other.
The group included Nanci Castrovince, who lives in Southwood. Eula Russell and Terry Somoya were Pilgrims and Somoya gets credit for the funny comment: “It was like camping out for a week. You feel gritty and crummy.”
Bonnie Pfohl helped Perkins continually.
Pilgrim Peter Galway tracked the storm using the NOAA weather radar app and the group enjoyed his sense of humor.
“It was a unique experience,” he said. “It felt like a suburban refugee camp.”
Finally, giving the Pilgrims their backbone, were three pilgrims from Serbia including Rada Koutselas, Saveta Kornja and Violet Miletic.
Miletic put the situation in perspective.
“I was in the shelter in World War II,” said the 82-year-old. “It was a bunker and there was the constant sound of bombs and people screaming. This was nothing.”