A Refugee for a Week

The flames consuming the Covenant College Safety & Security golf cart parked outside Andreas lobby on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 9:45 p.m. caused the week of frustration that would ensue for Andreas residents. Seven days after the initial disaster, Andreas refugees remain displaced and disconcerted.

Andreas Damage, photo by Abby Whisler

Andreas Damage, photo by Abby Whisler

The fire damaged the Andreas building, rooms, and residents’ possessions. Repairs are being made to the blackened brick siding and five windows of Andreas’ exterior. Dan Wykoff, Vice President for Finance and Operations, said that there has not yet been an estimate of the total damage costs. “Currently we’re in discussions with the insurance company to see what portion of the remediation costs will be covered by insurance and what portion we’ll need to fund from our operational budget. The operating budget is always created with an eye toward having enough funding for emergencies such as the golf cart fire.”

Covenant College hired Nivek, a remediation firm, to clean Andreas and professional cleaners to wash students’ clothes, rugs, and bed sheets that smell like smoke or are covered in ash. An e-mail was sent out by Dean of Students Brad Voyles at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 6, instructing Andreas residents to fill up two trash bags with anything that required professional cleaning.  Students were told in the e-mail that they would only need to keep enough clothes to last them “a couple of days,” however, bedding and clothing has yet to be returned to them and some students are left with nothing to wear.

Voyles’ e-mail on Friday instructed Andreas residents to find new temporary housing arrangements so the building could be thoroughly cleaned. 4th floor residents were required move out by Friday at 11:30 p.m., 3rd floor residents were required to move out no later than noon on Saturday, and 2nd floor residents were required to move out Monday morning. Students found temporary homes in the dorms and houses of friends. The students left with no place to stay were given a placement on campus by Chris Stern. Once students moved out, they were unable to get back on their halls.

Students were told to leave all electronics including computers, TVs, sound systems and gaming consoles in their rooms to be professionally cleaned of any soot that could be a fire hazard. Not having a computer to do homework was one of the many inconveniences Andreas residents had to face. “I had a typed assignment due on Monday that I didn’t have my laptop for,” said Sarah Withers, RA of Kallah. “We have still not gotten the ‘okay’ to get our electronics back.”

Andreas students will not be able to return permanently to their halls until Friday, Feb. 20. As of Monday night, Feb. 9, students are allowed on their halls from 5 p.m. - 7:30 a.m. However, the building is extremely hot and living conditions are bad enough that sleeping in the dorm is still not a real option. “The big question for Andreas residents during the day is: where do I go?” Withers commented. “There are so many times during the day that you just mindlessly go back to your room and for us that is now impossible.”

Of all the damage and inconveniences students have had to face, many would say that the lack of love, sympathy, and encouragement from the Covenant community has been the most difficult aspect of the fire. At first, this was due to a lack of awareness about the incident. No e-mail was sent out about the fire until Friday night, and students had to go to classes as usual that morning when most professors did not even know about the fiasco the students had faced the night before. Finally, Chaplain Lowe made a comment about the fire in chapel on Wednesday, Feb. 11. He encouraged Covenant students and faculty to support those affected by the fire. “Students in Andreas have felt more love and support since then,” Withers said.

Withers spoke for her hall saying, “The fire has shaken us all up more than we thought it would. It has been emotionally draining and stressful and it has made it hard to focus on school work. It has been difficult to go a week without being able to be together as a hall daily.”

For Andreas refugees, everything remains up in the air. The process of cleaning and repairs has taken longer than expected because there was miscommunication about how the HVAC system works in Andreas, and the process of cleaning it had to be completely altered.

Withers put it well: “The lives of Andreas residents got flipped upside down but everyone else’s lives have continued as normal.”