COLLEGE PARK – They wandered the streets Tuesday, the shell-shocked survivors of the third significant tragedy to touch the University of Maryland since classes began Aug. 29.
With classes canceled, students poked around the quads that were just reopened, taking pictures and watching cars being towed.
A violent thunderstorm spawned a tornado that tore through campus Monday, killing two students and displacing 3,000 others, contributing to a firefighter’s death, destroying the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute’s temporary quarters and turning parking lots into junk yards.
Freshmen traveled around in groups, sharing stories and looking at the aftermath of this latest disaster.
“We haven’t had a normal week of school yet,” said Lori Beswick, a freshman who lives in Cumberland Hall. “I really want to know what’s going to happen next.”
On Sept. 5, a student was found unresponsive on the porch of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and pronounced dead later that morning. The cause of death of Alexander E. Klochkoff, 20, has still not been determined.
Then on Sept. 11, terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon stunned the nation, and the campus community with it.
“It’s been a rough three weeks,” said campus spokesman George Cathcart.
It’s been a strange start for freshmen living away from home for the first time, but they said they have found a sense of community that have enable all of them to cope.
“If I didn’t love this school, I know I’d transfer,” said freshman Kristen Kushiyama.
“It’s almost like a bonding experience,” said freshman Paula Zelanko. “It makes it easier to adjust because you have a lot of things to talk with people about.”
“It’s a slap of reality in the face,” said freshman Andy Jacobs. He said the other events of September were kind of removed from campus, but knowing that two students died right on campus where more people were affected, “it just hits home.”
Cathcart said that although all of these events have been a shock, “we’ll bounce back from this.”
He described the students as resilient. “Anybody who watches this campus has to see there is a real sense of community here.”
The northwest section of campus is still littered with glass. About 3,000 students were evacuated after the twister hit, and 740 residents of the University Courtyard apartments are still displaced.
The woods surrounding the North Campus dorms look like a swamp, with tops of trees sawed off and layers of branches piled 6 feet high. The whole area smells oddly of fresh-cut logs.
Many students had bewildered looks on their faces as they ventured as close as they could get to Lot 2, the hardest-hit parking lot.
An estimated 30 cars on campus were total losses, and a total of 300 cars were damaged by the storm, said Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman.
“These cars were tossed about like Matchbox cars,” he said.
Sisters Colleen Patricia Marlatt, 23, and Erin Patricia Marlatt, 20, were in their car when it was hurled 200 to 300 yards. They died instantly, rescuers said.
The storm also contributed to the death of Clarence Kretizer, 78, a volunteer firefighter who had just returned to his station from working the campus disaster when he collapsed.
Some students who saw the storm’s fury firsthand Monday night were displaced from their dorms while fire officials checked out the buildings.
Sophomore Michael Ter Avesf was on the first floor of Denton Hall when he heard the tornado approaching at 5:45 p.m.
“My fan fell out the window. The streetlight was falling,” he said. “They sent us all in the basement.”
Afterward, Ter Avesf went outside to check his car.
“There was a car resting on top of my car,” he said. “A bunch of windows are broken and the roof started to cave in.”
Another freshman, Alex Zektser, said he could see trees “actually bending.”
“I was hypnotized.”