Reference: Musée du Haut-Richelieu
At the time, we were having discussions with the Red Cross and other organizations to send us cots, mattresses and pillows, but nothing had arrived yet. So, when the infamous Thursday rolled around, we had 2,000 people that we were going to divide up into groups. We split up the large gym into three spaces using two curtains, and then we were going to use the classrooms. But the big question was: how would they sleep?
When the shelter closed, we had to decontaminate the school before we left. We had to clean it properly because there were a few cases of the flu and the health rooms had been used by sick people. So, we brought in a company that worked with our janitors to clean up, wash down and decontaminate all the offices and classrooms that had been used. I remember the home economics room where we taught students how to keep house. It had a stove, fridge, washer and dryer; well, everything there had been used. The sofa had been used. We threw away the sofa because dogs had been on it, there were all sorts of things. So we really had to do a thorough clean-up. It took two days with specialized teams to decontaminate the place and, after that, I wouldn’t say exactly fumigate for insects but, disinfect, to make sure that the students who were coming back on Monday would be completely safe.
I remember it as a positive experience, a very positive management experience because we had to push ourselves all the time and be attentive and present. We had to be aware of the realities of people who were sometimes troubled or worried, a little grumpy or down in the dumps. So we had be able to cheer them up a bit and help them to see the positive side of things. In terms of management per se, we had to be able to manage 350 people, because I had 350 people staying there and we served meals to many more people. So, it was very different from, say, managing a school (laughter).