The gymnasium of San Diego High School looked like a slumber party for the elderly Tuesday afternoon.

White-haired residents of the Mount McGill Covenant Village, a retirement community in Spring Valley, were roused at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, told to pack up medications and a change of clothes, and bussed en masse to San Diego High as flames neared Sweetwater Lake. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the displacees were reassured that the senior community was safe, spared from the blaze.

The Mount McGill residents aren’t strangers, thrown together by disaster. The evacuation center took on the feel of an elderly sleepover as seniors napped, joked and snacked in the school gym. Frances Eklund, whose husband died several years ago, said if she had to be stranded in a school, there’s no other group she’d rather be stranded with.

“I’m alone now,” she said, “but I’m glad to be here, with all these friends.”

A silver-haired man tapped her shoulder, and asked jokingly if she planned to start up a shuffleboard game.

“I usually play shuffleboard on Tuesdays,” she explained. “That’s out for this week.”


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