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LIers open their home to family stranded by volcano

Bruce and Sueli Barton, right, of Huntington, host

Bruce and Sueli Barton, right, of Huntington, host the Kerr family, of Scotland, who were stranded at JFK airport. (April 18, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

It was just the right thing to do.

That's what Sueli and Bruce Barton decided Saturday night when they drove from their Huntington home to Kennedy Airport to offer lodging to a family stranded by ash from an Iceland volcano that has stalled air travel in and out of Europe.

"Our goal was to get a family with a baby or at least children," Sueli Barton said. "We had heard that the stranded people were getting taken advantage of. We kept thinking of families not having diapers or money or showers."

Just before 9 p.m., the couple arrived at the airport's international terminal, where the Red Cross had begun to set up cots. The Bartons first approached a family from Switzerland who had two small children, a boy and a girl, and offered them a spare room in their home. The family declined.

"They were a little afraid and asked if they could call later," Barton said Sunday morning. "I said, 'No. you take it or leave it.' We wanted to help a family immediately."

Next up were the Kerrs of Kirkcaldy, Scotland, Andrew and Fiona and their two daughters, Lauren, 10 and Caitlin, 8, who were heading home after a two and a half week holiday to New York, Disney World and Clearwater Beach, Fla.

"They were very receptive and grateful," Barton said.


"We warmed to them quickly and could see that they were completely genuine," Andrew Kerr said Sunday. "It was fantastic that instead of sleeping in an airport lobby, we were able to go back to their house and sleep in a bed."

Kerr said that the Bartons provided identification and explained that their home was a distance from the airport.

"It's was a question of trust, not only for us, but for them, too," Kerr said. "They were opening their home to complete strangers."

The Kerrs were scheduled to leave on a flight Saturday but now expect to board a flight Thursday.

"They're welcome to stay until then," said Barton, who has provided the family with a truck and a key to her home for the duration of their stay.

"You think of being in their situation and hope someone would help you," Barton said. "More people should step up and help."

Kerr said he is happy he took the Bartons up on their offer.

"It's one of these things you think" What's happening here?" Kerr said. "But we just went with it. We could tell that these were just nice people who wanted to help us. They're fantastic."

Meanwhile Sunday Maureen and Bill Johnson of Westbury spent the morning trying to figure out what they could do to help. They decided to make and deliver ham and cheese sandwiches and also open their home to as many as four people.

"We want to go to Aer Lingus and find some people to help," said Maureen, adding she is of Irish heritage. "I feel sorry for all the passengers. It's terrible to think of them stuck in the airport for days eating vending machine food and wearing dirty clothes."

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