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Seven Hours To Go 13 Miles

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

The storm and the snow looks innocent and pretty enough at the start but soon will cause mayhem that will leave cars stuck in traffic and an accident in every street.

This time of year, a phone call from the school might rouse feelings of joy. Snow days and delayed openings often feel like bonuses, but on Nov. 15, chaos ensued on the snowy streets. At 3:57 PM, many students received the phone call that the school would be closed at 4 pm.

By this time however, many students were already on campus and snow began to stick. While the majority of PCCC students headed for their cars, a group formed at the front of Founder’s Hall. Some rely on the shuttle service for transportation, particularly the 4 PM shuttle, to get home on Thursday evenings.

Students were initially told that the shuttle would not be in service because the school was promptly closing, but administrators quickly realized that groups of students were not only stranded in Paterson headed to Wanaque, but also Wanaque headed to Paterson. Two shuttles were provided for both groups of students and by 4:45 pm, a shuttle was ready to pick up the six students that needed a ride to Wanaque, including myself.

One hour into the ride, we made it only around the corner of the block. Several hours passed, and the shuttle passengers were still on the same road only .25 miles away from the main campus. Students were able to get off the shuttle and go for a walk to find a bathroom numerous times while we were stuck on Grand Street.

As hours passed, a couple of students made phone calls to their workplaces to say that they were stuck in Paterson. As it turned out, passengers learned that two accidents occurred nearby, and a truck got stuck on the ramp we were headed towards. There is no shoulder on that ramp, so all the cars behind the truck had nowhere to go. The students saw fire trucks and an ambulance amidst the bumper to bumper traffic, ultimately driving on the opposite side of the road to make any sort of navigation.

“I hope the man driving doesn’t get in trouble for this ride taking so long,” a student stated. “There isn’t much he can do.”

About six hours passed on Grand Street alone—that’s the equivalent to watching the stop light change from yellow, to red, to green 180 times. To conserve gas, the shuttle had to be turned off periodically in the snowy weather. Some students were more fortunate than others to be wearing the proper clothing for the occasion.

“There’s only three hits on my jewel left,” a student stated. If we had walked to Wanaque, we would have gotten home quicker, according to a student’s GPS.

As we observed the traffic we were stuck in, we realized that many other students and faculty members were probably stuck in traffic, too. The parking garage alone holds about seven floors of cars, many of which were trying to leave at the same time in the snowy conditions. Students were upset by the situation created by the immense amount of people leaving Paterson at once. Such conditions were experienced all over New Jersey; however, schools in the area were told that they would have 1:16 dismissals because the forecast predicted snow at 1 pm. The fact that PCCC students were leaving while inches of snow already collected on the ground worsened traffic conditions and created a more dangerous driving environment for everyone.

We eventually reached an intersection, and from there we took an alternate route consisting of back roads. Students a board that shuttle arrived at the Wanaque campus at 11:30 pm, totaling almost seven hours for a 13-mile trip. The Wanaque campus is located among the beautiful foliage characteristic of New York State, but as the darkness of midnight approached, the romantic beauty of nature was overshadowed by pitch blackness and icy winds.

As I dug out my tires from the snow surrounding them, students I met on the shuttle offered me a hand. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, I was grateful for the community camaraderie at our community college.

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