At the Bassick shelter, fear mixed with relief

By Michael P. Mayko

BRIDGEPORT — By 7:30 p.m., at least 180 people, along with seven dogs and two cats, obtained shelter at Bassick High School.  The school was seeing a steady stream of people entering.

Providing assistance were the American Red Cross, with volunteers from Sacred Heart University’s student community connections program, the Bridgeport Animal Shelter and Bridgeport police.

“We can fit about 400 in the main gym and there is another gym that we can open,” said Lloyd “Skip”Harrington, the Red Cross’ shelter manager.

Harrington said the school has an emergency generator if power is lost in the area.

“We’ll be here for the duration,” he said.

He suspects a flood of people showing up Sunday morning if the storm is as damaging as predicted.

“You don’t have to be a Bridgeport resident, we won’t turn anyone away,” said Harrington.

Nor will he turn volunteers away.

Maura Cook, assistant director of volunteer programs at Sacred Heart, showed up with about 24 students Saturday afternoon. Students like Ali Evers assisted in playing interactive games with the children and then dishing out pasta and salad later. A TV playing several family-friendly movies was set up under a basketball hoop.

“Our goal was to keep the kids active and their minds off the storm,” said Evers, a senior majoring in marketing and media communications.

The storm was a major concern to Charles Smith, who couldn’t stop worrying that his apartment on Shell Street would be destroyed.

“All my belongings are there, all the photographs I have of my family are there,” the 59-year-old longtime city resident repeated several times. “Will someone help me find a new place to live?”

He said he left the apartment because someone knocked on his door and told him to leave.

He grabbed his two most precious belongings — two cats named Baby and Bootsie — gingerly pushed them into their carriers and left.

“They’re looking out for people’s welfare here,” he said. “I just don’t think I’m going to get any sleep tonight.”

Ashonte Abrams, her sister, Toneisha Stovall, and Stovall’s 1-year old daughter, Audrianna, also sought shelter Saturday at the school.

“When the tornado came through last year, a tree just missed hitting our house,” said Abrams, who lives on Iranistan Avenue.