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Struggling for Calm While Fires Blaze

Finding Shelter at the Airport

October 27, 2003|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

For about 400 evacuees escaping wildfires chewing through the mountains, an old TWA hangar at San Bernardino International Airport became cafeteria, study hall and comfort station.

They had a bottomless flow of Starbucks coffee, real cream, an endless supply of cookies and Red Cross volunteer Terri Boudreaux to cheer them up.

Boudreax was particularly concerned about a young woman who was on the verge of tears.

"You can go stay with friends," Boudreaux said.

"I don't have any friends," said the woman, shivering.

Boudreaux brought over a wool blanket and wrapped it around the woman's shoulders.

Charles Foreman, 39, a graduate student at Cal State San Bernardino, spent the evacuation diligently reading "The Federalist Papers" for his constitutional history midterm exam.

Foreman had been evacuated from his apartment near campus midday Saturday. He brought his books, a notebook and his samurai sword. He's also a black belt in kung fu.

At 2 a.m., Penny Young sat outside, talking about the two-bedroom apartment in San Bernardino where she lives with her husband, Gabriel Ruiz, and five of her children.

It's a bit cramped, but it beats the motel room they lived in until recently.

"I don't know where we're going to go or what we're going to do if the apartment goes," she said. "I love that apartment and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. God blessed us with that place."

At 6 a.m. Sunday, evacuees began to stumble out of the hangar onto the airport's tarmac to watch the sunrise.

They stood and stared at the mountains, hoping the smoke would clear and their homes would still be there.

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