Antalffy Reflects on the Origin of "Girls on Fire"

Antalffy Reflects on the Origin of "Girls on Fire"

by Gabby "Goose" Antalffy '13

Note: This story also appears in the October issue of the Sho'men Club Newsletter. To become a member of the Sho'men Club, click here.

Women's soccer senior Gabby Antalffy writes about her and her team's experience in dealing with the bus fire they went through on August 31 just south of Chestertown on their way to Randolph-Macon for the season opener and how they got ready for their next match 48 hours later at Cedar Crest.  Here is her experience.

It was 11:00 am on Friday, August 31. We had our bags, balls, uniforms, and positive attitudes and we were ready to travel to Randolph-Macon for our opening game.  We were as excited as we could be and were ready to showcase what we had worked for all preseason.  Little did we know that we were going to have to postpone the first game of our season.  

On our way to Randolph-Macon, a few minutes into our drive, we began to smell something really disturbing on the bus.  At first, we thought it was just a smell coming out of the air conditioning unit, so we tried to ignore it, but then it began to get worse as time went on.  Soon enough, smoke started to fill the back of the bus.  We didn't know what to do, so several girls yelled to the bus driver and coaches that something was smoking.  Our assistant coach, Paul Kohorn, came to the back to check things out (because after all, who would have thought that our bus was actually going to catch fire?).  Meanwhile, the girls in the back moved to the front seats and tried to sit calmly.  Finally, it was discovered that there was something actually wrong and that we needed to evacuate the bus.  The bus driver pulled over.  We all remained calm until the moment the doors didn't open right away.  I wouldn't say that we panicked, but we were definitely worried.  The bus driver kicked the doors open and we scrambled out of the bus, running alongside of the road as fast as we could away from smoking bus.  
Some girls grabbed their belongings and others didn't.  Our coaches ran back onto the bus to grab as many things as they could, throwing it all off of the bus until they could no longer stand the smoke.  They finally got off of the bus and joined us on the side of the road.  Seconds later, the bus went up into flames.  We all stood there astonished, wondering how this could be happening to us.  The bus that we were just on was on fire.  For some reason, it didn't hit us that some people had left things on the bus, we were only worried about how we were going to get to our game and play!
Once the fire was extinguished and things settled down, we were told that our game had been postponed.  Finally, the college sent vans to pick us up and bring us back to school.  On the ride back, we were making jokes about the fire, making the mood a little lighter because what had just happened to us was so out of the ordinary.  When we got back to school, a crisis team comprised of members of the Athletic Department, the Office of Student Affairs, Public Safety, and the Counseling Center was waiting for us; and it was at that moment we realized that the fire was more serious than we thought. After speaking with the support team, we called our parents and unpacked all of our smoked-filled things, beginning to unwind and prepare for practice the next day.    
Last preseason we overcame an earthquake, a hurricane, and high temperatures, so naturally we became used to having obstacles being thrown our way and working hard to overcome them.  This situation was no different.  We worked just as hard at practice the next day, preparing for what was to be our game opener.  Two days later we got onto a bus to head to Cedar Crest.  On the way there, we all seemed focused on playing our first game and how we were going to play hard to prove that we can still succeed after being thrown with such an unfortunate event.  We had worked so hard throughout preseason that we knew it was time to show ourselves, parents, and fans that we could start our season in a great way.
Once we arrived to Cedar Crest, we were only focused on the game.  We weren't thinking about the fire, we were only focused on playing our game and beating Cedar Crest.  This seemed to work to our advantage because we scored five goals and recorded a shutout.  The win was a great start to the season and set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the season.  On the way home, we talked among ourselves and thought of the name "Girls on Fire," referring to The Hunger Games character, Katniss who also overcame a lot of obstacles throughout her journey in the story.  
Now, halfway through our season, we don't really think about what happened to us in the beginning of the season.  We focus on each game we are going to play and work hard every single practice to have a successful season.  The only thing we try to remember about the fire was how we stayed strong and were there for one another; if we can make it through a fire, we can make it through anything.  
We would like to thank everyone who supported us during this experience.  The women's soccer team greatly appreciates everything and wouldn't have made it through this time without everyone who helped us in our time of need!

Note: For her contributions in getting the team's uniforms ready for their match at Cedar Crest two days later, equipment manager Gail Schmidt was named this month's Featured Employee at Washington College.  She received her award at the Staff Breakfast on October 2.  Schmidt spent over 10 hours getting the uniforms laundered and even found replacement items for clothes that were not salvagable.