A Nantucket Christmas Stroll Nightmare

Kristen Hall •

To the editor:

While the description of how Nantucket managed to handle tourists who found themselves stranded on the Island of Nantucket for Stroll weekend once ferries were canceled sounded lovely, it was most definitely not an accurate reflection of what truly took place. I would like to provide you a first-hand insider’s account of what happened from someone who was in the throws of this situation with many others.

Like most, when we found out that ferries were cancelled at approximately 4:30 p.m. on 12/3, we rushed to the Steamship Authority terminal (on Nantucket) frantic to get any information on the best way to handle this situation. I was with a party of 17 women, a group of moms who had all come over for the day for some holiday cheer. As we quickly found out, finding a place to stay overnight for a weekend where most hotels have been sold out for quite a few months was a bit of a challenge. The terminal was slightly chaotic with people trying to call hotels. As we called one hotel from another there was some price gouging taking place as some well- known establishments tried to take advantage of the situation.

We would call one hotel and get a price and then called back a few minutes later to see if it was still available only to learn that the price had almost doubled now that they were aware of the situation at hand. (And yes, after coming to the island for years I am quite clear on what rates are on peak season for summers and during the stroll. This was most definitely exploitation at its best.) It was now dark out, rainy, windy and you could sense the desperation of the strangers around you.

A worker at the Steamship Authority terminal began yelling to everyone that the terminal would be closing at 11:00 p.m. and everyone would have to leave whether they had a place to go or not. Realizing that the hotel situation was never going to work not just for our party but for many that were crowded in the terminal stranded, I decided to call the Nantucket police station. It was approximately 5:15 p.m. and a woman on dispatch answered the call. I explained to her the situation, how many people seemed panicked inside and outside of the terminal and asked if there might be any plans for a shelter (like opening up Nantucket High School as has been done for other situations in the past) or if she had any suggestions since it looked like so many were stranded. I was completely taken off guard at the rude response I received as the woman arrogantly told me that “the police station does not control the weather”. Really? She further added that not only were there no plans in place to help anyone, but that there was absolutely nothing they could do to help. I asked if there was another person I could possibly speak with to figure out a solution for this mass group of people and was outright told “no”.

How did things end up? Well, for my party specifically we thankfully turned out just fine. We were one of the lucky groups who managed to rent a beautiful house for the evening large enough to hold our party. Through friends of friends we were connected to someone who quite kindly opened up their home to us at the last minute for a reasonable rate so that we would not be stranded. Bravo to these owners – humanity has not been lost. However, as we stood in line the next morning at 5:00 am at the ferry, the accounts of those in line were not quite the happy ending we experienced. There were some who had literally been turned away at the hospital and other places they went to find shelter, some had been outside in the rain and cold all night with nowhere to go because the hotel prices that were higher than normal were way too steep for them to find shelter.

I have spent the last 24 years vacationing on the island with my family and love sharing the joy it brings me with others. Some of the women in our party were new to visiting the island and others who had been before had never experienced a “stroll” on ACK. I will quite honestly say that the first-hand experience and accounts of the way this situation was handled was an embarrassment. While I will always have fond memories, some of the “sparkle” that I had for Nantucket is sadly gone after this Stroll. I will leave you with a quote you have clearly heard of, but it most definitely rings true:

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. — Samuel Johnson


Kristen Hall

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