Having ridden out Hurricane Sandy, a group of 13 students from Ozark Christian College are now contending with flight delays in New York City as they wait to return home to Joplin.
Austin Hedge, 22, a fifth-year student studying church planting and youth ministry, is serving as student leader for the trip.
“Our teacher, Dave Smith, lives in Long Island and flies out three different classes each semester to go to different churches, visit urban environments and learn from people who are doing hands-on ministries,” Hedge said.
“We got up here last Friday and knew there were going to be some storms, but we weren’t too concerned about them. On Saturday, things started to look serious and were told that unless we could get out within an hour or two, we were going to have to wait.”
The OCC group rode out Hurricane Sandy at a Baptist housing unit for missionaries in midtown Manhattan.
“A lot of the damage was in lower Manhattan,” he said. “There’s not a ton of damage where we’re at.”
Getting a flight back to Joplin has been tricky, Hedge said.
The group was originally scheduled to fly out of New York City at 3 p.m. Monday. After the hurricane, the flight was pushed back to tonight. The flight has been delayed again, with the students now scheduled to depart at 7 a.m. Friday.
“It’s an interesting perspective for me and my wife (who is in Joplin),” Hedge said . “We’ve been thinking about moving to the East Coast. We’ve been through tornadoes, but hurricanes are very different.”
Stranded but safe
Gary Duncan found himself watching an all-too-familiar scene Monday.
Roosevelt Hospital in New York City was being evacuated just blocks away from where he, his wife, Suzy, and a group of friends were staying.
“It was such a reminder of the May 22 (2011) tornado in Joplin. My heart goes out to all those hospital workers,” said Duncan, the retired chief executive officer of Freeman Health Systems.
The Duncans left Joplin on Thursday and are staying in a hotel in midtown New York, far enough away that their hotel has power. Their group will likely be there until Thursday. Their flight Tuesday was canceled.
“We have not felt that we are in harm’s way and the hotel staff has been tremendous, doing everything they can. But we can look out the window and see the fires, lots of them.’’