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Hagerstown medical student rides out Ivan in Grenada

September 18, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Most Marylanders are just now tangling with the remnants of Hurricane Ivan. But Hagerstown resident Jenifer Drummond first met Ivan more than a week ago, and isn't in a hurry to renew the acquaintance.

A second-year medical student at St. George's University on the island of Grenada, Drummond huddled with classmates in a campus dormitory while the storm ravaged the island, killing nearly 40 islanders and leaving about two-thirds of the population homeless.

Drummond, 23, said the 11 to 12 hours Ivan trapped her in the dorm were "easily without a doubt" the scariest experience she'd ever had.

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"I broke down that night," she said. "Everybody has reached a point where they broke down. I was just thinking about the people living up on the mountain they had no place to go. What were they gonna do?"

Varying reports from Grenada indicate that Ivan damaged about 90 percent of the homes on the island.

"Grenada's a very poor country, full of wooden shacks," Drummond said. "You or I would have better sheds in our back yards" than most homes in Grenada.

Drummond and two roommates lived in a suite in the dorm. When they realized the storm was coming, they carted their mattresses into a common area that had no windows, closed off the doors to their bedrooms - where the windows were - and camped out.

"We had a little picnic of our perishable food," she said.

Though their concrete dorm remained intact, they could hear and feel the storm when it struck Sept. 7. "It started around 2:30 in the afternoon and lasted until about 1:30 a.m.," Drummond said.

"The hurricane itself was really loud," she added. "The wind would shake our concrete building."

Drummond and her friends sought spiritual aid to get through the ordeal - her Indian roommate lit a lamp to the Hindu "remover of all obstacles," she said. "We all had our own moments when we were praying."

Afterward, the island devastated, Drummond and her roommates played host to classmates whose off-campus homes no longer were habitable. But most of them just wanted to go home.

Drummond decided to leave Sept. 8, and finally arrived on a flight from Barbados to Philadelphia on Sept. 11.

"I paid $300 for a charter" for the short hop from Grenada to Barbados, she said. "I called the pilot and asked if he would come and get a group of us."

In the meantime, friends armed with machetes and other weapons arrived to warn their classmates to stay on campus because of widespread looting on the island. They told Drummond and the others that if they ran into trouble, they should "take this stick, aim for the eyes and yell like hell and we'll come and get you," she said.

After going several days without showers, "we were all really stinky and disgusting" when Drummond and the half dozen other students who left with her arrived in Barbados, she said. "The first thing we all did when we got to Barbados was take a shower."

Now safe in Hagerstown, Drummond said the school plans to resume classes Sept. 28 - she just doesn't know where.

But it won't be in Grenada. Too much damage.

The university has announced a relief fund for the people of Grenada. For information on how to contribute, visit the school's Web site at www.sgu.edu.

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