CHICAGO (CBS) — Several people from the Chicago area were on the island of St. Martin during Hurricane Irma — and lived to tell their tale.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reports that those he spoke to say they are still in survival mode after making it through the Category 5 hurricane.
Illinois State Sen. Iris Martinez, for example, was on vacation in St. Martin when Irma hit. It took the U.S. Department of Defense to get her, as well as others, out safely.
Sen. Martinez, who just returned to Chicago late Sunday night, said, “To talk about a [Category] 5 — it’s something that I will always have right here in my heart. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it out of there. I honestly thought I was going to die.”
She said she rode out the storm in her hotel bathroom.
A U.S. Military plane was also sent to rescue a group of medical students studying on the island at a DeVry University sister school. Those students are now safe in a Naperville hotel.
“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. I started tearing up because that was probably the most amazing feeling,” Richard Hall said.
Unfortunately, not every student has made it out as of yet. Rebecca Tostige Ruthberg, a Lisle native, says she is unwilling to leave her dog behind.
“People with their animals, who don’t want to leave their animals here — we haven’t been able to get on those [planes] so we’re waiting for another option.”
The U.S. Military was able to evacuate about half of the 500 medical students and faculty left on the island, and are working to get the remaining half.
Irma ripped through the Caribbean, killing at least 30 people, before moving on to Florida.