- Posted: 1:23 AM, September 17, 2010
Officials initially postponed the game 12 minutes into the second half when lightning was spotted in the vicinity of Flushing’s Kissena Park. But after consulting with the coaches, it was decided the game would be called and the Terriers, ranked No. 1 in The Post’s CHSAA boys soccer rankings, improved to 4-0-0 on the young season.
Monsignor Farrell made its way back to Staten Island and Purificato and his players boarded the bus for what should have been a short, uneventful 10-minute drive to the Fresh Meadows school. Instead, the bus stalled and, to make matters worse, all the parents had already left.
That’s when a minor inconvenience suddenly turned into a dangerous situation.
Unbeknownst to them, packed with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 80-mph, a powerful storm was quickly making its way through New York City and Purificato and his players were about to be in the middle of it all. They had no idea that a tornado warning was issued about 15 minutes prior.
“Within five minutes [rain] just started coming down in buckets. The kids were scared. It was unbelievable,” he said. “The bus was shaking, the trees next to us were literally bent over sideways. There were 10 trees right behind the bus that went down. It was really wild.”
While he was trying to keep his players calm, Purificato thought the worst – there was a distinct possibility the storm, which overturned several tractor trailers on local highways, could topple the school bus.
“I was looking at the trees and they were literally sideways, the bus was shaking,” Purificato said. “I told them to pull up the windows because the hail was coming down. You couldn’t see anywhere, not out of the front of the bus, not out of the side of the bus.”
As quickly as it arrived, the storm had passed, making its way east to Long Island. That’s when Purificato was able to survey the massive damage all around them.
“Every tree on Peck Avenue came down,” he said. “There was a tree that came down onto the goal. I don’t know if it ripped up the nets, but I wasn’t going back out on the field to find out. Everything was uprooted. It was like a war zone.”
Funnel clouds were reportedly spotted in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens and the brief, but intense storm left a trail of destruction in its path. One woman was killed when a tree struck the car she was driving on the Grand Central Parkway near Jewel Avenue.
Was it a tornado? The National Weather Service will make that determination Friday, but Purificato and his players will certainly never forget whatever it was.
“As soon as it passed, I said guys you know what? We made it through a tornado together,” Purificato said. “They started laughing it a little bit after it was over. … It’s definitely one I’ll remember.”