When I signed up to be on staff for Wood Badge Course N5-533-11-1, I knew that there would be challenges and stressors that would need to be handled. What I didn't know is that we would tested with a hurricane, danger, and the destruction that followed.
Yes we knew the storm was coming, however as of 1:30AM Sunday the storm was going to "miss" us. Around 5:00AM we discovered that was not true. It was then that I heard the first tree fall. In the time it took to get out of bed and dress, four more fell and screaming could be heard outside. Fearing the worse, I made my way to Gilwell Hall (the dining hall) along with the rest staff and the participants. Once the head count was completed, there was a slight sigh of relief that everyone was safe. Even the leader who was in this tent was safe. I am not the type of person who preaches acts of God or fate, but a higher being was definitely looking after him and the rest of the participants.
Once in Gilwell Hall, it was quickly discovered that we were not yet safe. From the staff area we watched trees blow down at a rate of one every one to five minutes. After a tree fell on my vehicle parked just outside the building, we knew it was time to move. The idea of sitting in a building with 200 year oaks just outside was a little unnerving. Everyone was then evacuated to Wise Hall across the creek and it was their where we waited out the storm.
The participants continued with the course while I and a few other staff members surveyed the damage and gathered gear from tents. Words cannot explain the emotions and fear experienced while walking around those campsites. All I can say is to look at the pictures yourself and remember that people were in these sites just five minutes before some of these trees went down.
I guess you can say that staff pulled off a miracle and kept it together. We put on a straight face and tried our best to keep the knowledge of just how bad things were away from the participants. The actual miracle was that no one was hurt. Great thanks go out to the Wood Badge staff, the camp ranger, and the township for pulling together and getting the job done.