CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of medical students evacuated from St. Martin have found refuge in the Chicago area, after the tiny Caribbean island was devastated by Hurricane Irma last week.
Irma hit the island as a Category 5 storm last week, destroying buildings, and leaving hundreds of Americans stranded. Several arrived in Chicago on Sunday.
The Chicago Marriott Naperville welcomed 60 rooms full of weary students Sunday night, with more expected on Monday.
Richard Hall, a first-year medical student at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, in Sint Maarten, on the Dutch side of Saint Martin island, described evacuating with his wife and 5-month-old son.
“Kind of been rationing food and what-not in this foreign country that’s been completely demolished and wiped out. I remember getting off the back of the truck with my bag in hand, and looking up and just seeing a C-130 with the American flag on it, and I started tearing up, because that wass probably the most amazing feeling. I got goosebumps,” he said.
Hall and his family arrived at the university only a week and a half before Irma struck.
Administrators confirmed the monster storm left 500 students, faculty, and staff stranded on the decimated island. The U.S. military evacuated about half of them by 11 p.m. Monday. The medical students not only rode out the hurricane, but provided treatment to the injured after it passed.
Second-year student xxx said he is worried about his Canadian colleagues who are still in St. Maarten.
“It’s hard seeing them there, you know? And some of us are experiencing survivor’s guilt, because we were told to get out, but we didn’t want to leave our friends,” Fuji Isom said.
AUC School of Medicine’s sister school is DeVry University in Illinois, so some students expect to continue their medical studies at DeVry.
In all, about 6,000 Americans were stranded on St. Martin after the hurricane hit. More than 1,200 of them were evacuated Sunday.