Rick York awoke in the middle of the night. The building in which he slept was shaking. It was 3 a.m., and Hurricane Sandy was hammering the Bahamas.

York went to the window and was more alarmed by what he didn’t see. The barrier wall was no match for the waves. The wind bent trees sideways and debris flew through the air like uncontrolled darts.

“Frankly, I never want to see anything like it again,” York said.

The varsity baseball coach at Skowhegan Area High School for the last six years, York was in Nassau with his wife Jen, his brothers Bobby and Tom, sister Valerie and other family and friends. York is the co-owner of Motor Supply, and the vacation was a chance to mix business with pleasure with other Mainers in the automotive industry. There were 58 people in the group, York said.

The group arrived in Nassau on Sunday, Oct. 21. Early in the afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 24, employees of the resort at which the group was staying started telling guests to prepare for a storm.

“Then they put a name to it and said it’s big,” York said.

The island braced for Sandy’s arrival, and York and the others were told to stay in their rooms. Don’t leave unless somebody from the hotel staff comes and gets you. The hotel boarded up the windows on the first floor, but told guests to stay away from the windows in their rooms. From York’s room on the fifth floor, he could see the storm batter the beach.

“If you’d go outside, the wind would just throw you around,” York said. “All of us just wanted to get home to our families.”

Sandy was a category 2 hurricane when it hit the Bahamas, with winds between 96 and 110 miles per hour.

“We were 40, 50 miles from the eye,” York said. “You said your prayers.”

York grew up in Skowhegan. He’s seen his share of Nor’easters. He’s seen the wind whip snow through the air and drop visibility an arm’s length. Imagine the worst Nor’easter you’ve ever seen.

According to York, Hurricane Sandy was much, much worse.

“I would take 50 Nor’easters compared to one hurricane,” he said.

By late afternoon on Friday, Oct. 26, Hurricane Sandy had left the Bahamas. When they were allowed, York and some others went into Nassau’s downtown.

“We saw the destruction,” York said. “The people were so relaxed. They were like, ‘This is what we live with. This is what can happen.’ Everyone in our group was safe and sound. That’s what I’m thankful for.”

York saw the destruction in Nassau, and knew what was coming to the United States. When he came home, York watched the storm’s path, and prayed again, this time, that the Sandy would weaken. That Sandy wouldn’t hit the United States with the force he saw it hit the Bahamas.

“We already witnessed it and knew what this thing could be,” York said.

York knows how fortunate Maine was to not catch the brunt of Hurricane Sandy. That doesn’t make him feel much better. Not when he remembers what he saw in Nassau, and not when he sees the destruction and aftermath in New York and New Jersey.

At 3 a.m., the building shook, but it wasn’t York’s building. He saw trees snap and tides flood and debris pile up, but York got to get on a plane and leave. His life goes on, pretty much uninterrupted.

“I’ve got friends in New Jersey and New York,” York said. “We got to come home to our lives intact. I got to leave the Bahamas. They have to rebuild their lives.

“I don’t know what else to say.”

Nothing else needed to be said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]