There was joy and jubilation around 8:45 Sunday night at Newark International Airport after a New Haven mother’s prayers were answered.
“I’m rejoiceful, I’m thankful, I’m happy,” Sandra Pittman said, “I’m just thanking God that he brought her as you see, no scratches, no bruises, still beautiful.”
To celebrate her 33rd birthday, Sandra’s daughter Shandrea Pittman and a group of friends traveled to the idyllic island of St. Maarten. Shortly after their arrival on Sept. 1, they learned Hurricane Irma was expected to make a direct hit.
"We started searching other options in terms of other airlines and nothing was available," Shandrea told NBC Connecticut in her first interview since returning home.
Last Wednesday morning, Pittman and her five friends took shelter in their hotel suite’s bathroom.
"Thank God we did," she said. "Because probably about 30 minutes later that’s when the first of the big windows in our villa caved in."
Together, they rode out the storm there for almost 19 hours.
"The only four walls that stood standings was the four walls that we were in in the bathroom," Pittman said. "We knew that it was nothing but God that stood those walls up for us to protect us."
From the ruins of that room, the found refuge in the lobby of a hotel that Irma didn’t destroy.
"If it wasn’t for Simpson Bay Hotel," Pittman said. "I’d probably still be in St. Maarten."
On Friday, the group got word of a possible U.S. military flight off the island.
"It didn’t matter if you were American, if you were Canadian, if you were British," Pittman said. "They were just flying everyone to Puerto Rico."
The next morning a U.S. plane airlifted the six friends to Puerto Rico. From San Juan, they took a commercial flight to Newark on Sunday.
"It was the last six seats, it was a blessing, the last six seats on an American Airlines flight and we were able to get home," Pittman said.
Back home in New Haven, Pittman said she is still processing what she’s endured the past week.
"We didn’t give up at all and we knew that our family and friends were fighting for us," she said. "We knew we had faith and we just basically had the trust in god that we would make it home."
Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut