It was 8:47 in the morning when the Fauquier transformer exploded, marking the start of the Botetourt Exodus of 2017 and a campus-wide blackout. This one event triggered the exile of over 160 residents of the Botetourt Complex to remote hotels in the dark heart of Colonial Williamsburg. I had seen the transformer through a hallmate’s window. It was a pretty surreal sight: a hunk of metal on fire, making what I can only describe as explosion noises every two seconds or so.
Looking back, I was pretty indifferent about what I had seen: I was running late for my 9 o’clock German at the time and had heard police sirens, so I already knew Campus Police were on it. The fire alarm went off as I left my beloved Gooch Hall. I figured it wasn’t anything to worry about, but if you know anything about Transformers, you know that there’s always more than meets the eye.
The transformer problem came to manifest itself far beyond Botetourt, causing a campus-wide blackout. It really wasn’t too big of a deal: I simply walked to a dark Washington Hall for my German class and went to a blacked-out Campus Center to do some studying. The power came back on in time for my 1 o’clock class, so I thought the day would just carry on normally.
It was after my classes ended at 3:20 that the blackout really hit me: I received an official William & Mary email that power would be down for the entire Botetourt Complex for at least four days. I was to pack my bags, be out of the dorm by 4:30 (I had less than an hour to prepare), and board a shuttle to be transported to a hotel. The Exodus had begun.
I came back home to a darkened, eerie Gooch Hall. All the lights were out, people rushed in a panic as they scrambled to pack their belongings, and my newly purchased Ben & Jerry’s ice cream melted into a sorry soup in my powerless fridge.
I went into panic mode and began stuffing clothes into my carry-on luggage: coincidentally, I had just unpacked from Thanksgiving break the day before. I salvaged what little I could, as I had run out of clothes and had planned to do my laundry that night. Needless to say, it was not a very fun experience and was worsened by the fact that I had an unfinished paper due at 10 o’clock that night.
I somehow managed to successfully pack, scraping four days of clothes together, the books I needed to cite for my paper, my ukulele (I never actually ended up practicing), and my (hopefully) salvageable ice cream. Helped out by my trusty roommate, I escaped the darkness that was Gooch Hall.
It felt strangely apocalyptic at the time, like being back home in New York when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. Huddled in a crowded bus with fellow Botetourtians, I reminded myself of the lessons of Thor: Ragnarok. Botetourt, at its heart, is not a place, it’s a people.
The shuttle arrived at the Governor’s Inn, a quaint hotel in Colonial Williamsburg. A mass of stranded Botetourtians was assembled all around the front of the building (as seen in this article’s cover photo), waiting impatiently for their rooms. I couldn’t blame them at all for their frustration, it took my roommate and me over an hour to get our room key.
The day had turned to night as we waited outside in the brisk autumnal Williamsburg air, forsaken by our Lord Botetourt. I cheered with loud, genuine happiness when my roommate and I finally received the tickets to our salvation in the form of key cards. Our hotel room was glorious, with two full-sized beds and a nice, warm shower. Fully prepared for what I thought would be four days of bliss and hotel living, I unpacked my things and settled in, determined to make the best out of a bad situation.
It was great, up until I received a subtly-worded eviction notice via email the next day, informing me that the power was back on and to vacate the hotel by 11 on Wednesday. This cut my hotel time from four days to two. In the end, I was happy to return to the plain comforts of Gooch Hall.
My ice cream had survived and my paper was given an extension. However, I still missed the luxurious comforts of my temporary dorm room, which was nearly double that of my Gooch room, complete with its own private bathroom. In retrospect, I really miss room service. My dorm could really use it now.