Helping take care of those hit back home

Relief: Caribbean natives throughout the area coordinate efforts to aid flood-stricken residents on the islands.

Hurricane Ivan

September 13, 2004|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,SUN STAFF

As a child, Anthony Greenidge of Randallstown would listen in awe to his grandparents' horrific tales of Hurricane Janet, the storm that thrashed his tiny Caribbean island homeland of Grenada in 1955.

Enduring days without food or water, his grandparents said the family only barely survived. Greenidge's birth, just a month after the storm hit, was a miracle, according to family lore.

Today, no one in his family expected a storm as wicked as Janet to strike again.

But it did.

"Ivan is 10 times worse," he said. "Nothing can even compare with what Granada is suffering now."

Hurricane Ivan has killed at least 60 people across the Caribbean so far, including more than 30 people in Grenada, a country with a population of 102,000.

The storm lashed the 133-square-mile island with 145-mph winds earlier last week, destroying 90 percent of the homes, leaving tens of thousands homeless, hungry and desperate for help.

Greenidge loaded up his truck on Saturday with clothes, food and water and dropped them off at the Grenada Embassy in Washington, which is taking donations.

However, the tragedy has touched those with roots all over the Caribbean. Yesterday, scores of Caribbean community groups and throughout Maryland and Washington began coordinating aid efforts. About 55,000 Maryland residents have West Indian ancestry, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

"I haven't been able to keep away from the TV," said Elaine Simon, born in Antigua and president of the Caribbean American Carnival Association of Baltimore, an umbrella group for West Indian culture. The group has launched a canned goods drive at a Park Heights nightclub called Blue Caribbean.

"We are a tight network," she said." And we all know what it's like when you have experienced a hurricane."

The storm tore through Jamaica on Saturday, where it strengthened to a Category 5 storm, but later was downgraded to a Category 4. Yesterday, Ivan slammed into the Cayman Islands and appeared headed toward Cuba. Meanwhile, Hurricane-weary Florida braced for possible landfall early this week.

Greenidge, 49, said he was relieved when he received a cell phone call Saturday from one of his five sisters on Grenada. She said her home was the only one left standing in her community, nestled in Grenada's northern St. John's Parish. Nearly 100 people have been through her three-bedroom home, sleeping on any patch of floor they can find, he said.

"She said, the entire community is staying in her house," Greenidge said. "They have no where else to go. But Grenada is full of people who will not turn others away. If people show up without food, you help take care of them."

The rest of Greenidge's family remained unaccounted for yesterday.

Meanwhile, others in the region's Caribbean community spent the weekend planning relief efforts.

Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who grew up in the Jamaican cities of Montego Bay and Kingston, said yesterday that she was working with the Jamaican Association of Maryland and various other groups to launch a coordinated aid campaign.

After Hurricane Gilbert devastated the island in 1988, Nathan-Pulliam helped found the Jamaican Association of Maryland, which set up a bank account and 800-number for donations. She hopes to do the same this week.

"As a Caribbean person, I'm worried about Jamaica, I'm worried about Grenada and the Cayman Islands," she said.

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