WILLSBORO - Sitting around a table, the ladies exchanged stories, sipped from their paper coffee cups, and waited on the latest news.
It was not the usual gathering at Lakewood Apartments in Willsboro, however, because this gathering was taking place at the Willsboro Volunteer Fire Department, and not by choice.
The 12 residents of Lakewood Apartments, along with several other local properties, were evacuated from the area around 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 6, when a pipe that supplied the senior housing complex with propane was found to be leaking.
Some of the residents were up for the day when members of the Willsboro Volunteer Fire Department started the evacuation procedure, while some had to be woken up.
"I was on my couch asleep, snoozing away," Betty Sayward, a resident at Lakewood, said. "Then I heard that someone was there knocking at my door. I opened it and there was the fireman who told me that I had to get out of the place."
"I had a neighbor knocking on my door and asking me if I had heard about what was going on," Betty's daughter-in-law, Janet, said. "I came down to the fire station and came in to find her and there they all were having doughnuts and coffee."
Other residents also recounted their Friday morning.
"They came around and told us to get up and helped us get over to the fire station," Sadie Hams said.
"I had just gotten done with my washing," Ethel Doyle said. "I was going back to my apartment when a fireman came in and stopped me and told me that I had to get out."
Along with the residents, several pets made their way from the apartments to the fire station.
"I opened my door because I could hear all of the commotion," Patti James said. "They came by and told me I had to go, but I told them I was not leaving without my cat."
However, not all the pets were brought over.
"I got a bird that I had to leave there," Grace Martin said. "I just hoped that he didn't get too cold while I was gone."
While at the fire station, the residents were taken care of by members of the Willsboro VFD auxiliary.
"We usually do coffee and doughnuts for the firemen during a major event, but this time we have also been working with the seniors who are here," Mae Mero, president of the auxiliary, said. "We did this during the ice storm for four days to help people out as well as the firemen, but that was the last time we did something like this with so many people involved."
The seniors said they were appreciative of the service rendered to them by the firemen and the auxiliary.
"They were all so great," Dorothy Hoke said. "The firemen were very good and brought us over in the ambulance."
"They helped us all over," Hams said.
"It has actually turned out to be a good day," Rose Fine said. "There are some parts that were boring, but they have taken really good care of us over here."
"My feet were so cold, and a girl took off her socks and gave them to me to put on," Martin said.
"It worked good," Mero said. "Everyone did their share."
Other residents found out about the situation through the scanner.
"We first heard it on the scanner," said Ron Baker, who was evacuated from his home. "Then, the fireman came around and said that we had to evacuate and we saw that the fire department was over at the apartments."
Along with residents, Willsboro Central School was also evacuated as a precautionary measure.
"I think we did a great job with our evacuation and it was very smooth and very efficient," said school superintendent Stephen Broadwell. "We had our students out of here in about 40 minutes."
Broadwell said there was an alteration to the original evacuation plan based on where the threat was located.
"We altered the traditional plan and loaded from the back of the school on individual busses to make sure had building between us and senior center," Broadwell said. "Transportation did a great job getting here in a timely fashion while we housed students in gym. The teachers were phenomenal and staff did a great job calling parents and getting everything in place. We're very glad everything turned out well."