Worker counts her blessings on escaping tornado


September 28, 2001|By Peg Adamarczk | Peg Adamarczk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN THE tornado struck College Park, Evelyn Graf was one of the lucky ones. The Pasadena woman missed, by only a few minutes, the fury of the twister that leveled her office at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, injuring co-workers and ending the lives of two young sisters.

When Graf left work just after 5 p.m. Monday, seven colleagues at the institute were inside its construction trailer.

Heading home on U.S. 1, approaching Beltsville, she watched the storm clouds darken in her rearview mirror.

"It was," she said, "frightening to watch the sky turn black as night and see the funnel cloud form."

She listened to the weather advisory on her car radio. Traffic snarled as other drivers attempted to get away from the storm.

Graf quickly called her husband, Richard, and told him that she was trying to find a way home that would not be in the storm's projected path. At 5:20 p.m., she learned that the storm's path was predicted to hit Beltsville four minutes later.

"I was just minutes ahead of the storm," she said. "It was following me up the road."

She added, "I knew I had a few minutes and that if I could get over to [the Baltimore-Washington Parkway] quickly enough, I would be all right."

She arrived home safely but shaken. Only then did she hear the news about the tornado's devastation to her workplace and her close call.

"If I had left work a few minutes later I would have been there when it hit," she said.

Back on the job Wednesday morning - she verifies the professional qualifications of fire and rescue workers nationwide - Graf and her co-workers at the institute were busy trying to salvage what they could. They found a computer here, a hard drive there.

"We're thankful that only one co-worker is still hospitalized but so sad about the Marlatt sisters," she said, referring to Colleen and Erin Marlatt, the Clarksville women who were killed by the tornado.

Today, hundreds of fire and rescue workers, family members and friends are to attend the funeral in Clarksville for the sisters. Graf, a veteran volunteer at the Riveria Beach and Earleigh Heights fire companies, will be among the mourners.

"I knew them, knew the family. I watched them grow up," she said with a long sigh. "It's all so sad, so very sad."

Autumn festival coming

Pasadena United Methodist Church is holding an autumn festival and concert Oct. 6 at the church, at 61 Ritchie Highway.

The festivities will begin with a flea market at 8 a.m. Other activities, including scarecrow making, face painting, a dunking booth, games and amusements, will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pit beef sandwiches, homemade baked goods, flowers and crafts will be sold. Proceeds will be used for ministries sponsored by the church.

The congregation is sponsoring a concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 by fluegelhorn and trumpet player David Wells. Wells studied music in Texas and Oklahoma. He has performed with bands on television ministries. He also has served on worship teams and in music ministries for the last 20 years.

An offering will be taken.

Information: 410-647-3090.

Church plans flea market

A flea market sponsored by the Magothy United Methodist Women is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 13 in the church's fellowship hall, 3703 Mountain Road.

Tables are available to rent for $15 each. The market will feature a Christmas-in-October table with gifts and decorative items for sale and a bake table. Refreshments will be sold. Table reservations: 410-255-5220.

Seeking members

The Pasadena Business Association will hold a general membership meeting at noon Wednesday at Kurtz's Beach, 2070 Kurtz Ave.

The guest speaker will be Dan Dwyer of the Peroutka & Peroutka law firm, who will discuss the U.S. Constitution.

The cost for members with reservations is $12, $15 at the door.

Reservations must be made no later than today. Information: Carol Cross, 410-987-4887.

The association also has a few open tables for its trade show, to be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Earleigh Heights fire hall on Ritchie Highway.

Information: Jim Anderson, 410-766-2645.

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