CENTERBURG — When Chris White of Centerburg got a call last Friday from her eldest son, David, she was flabbergasted to learn Guatemala had been devastated by a volcano. The news came at the time her other son, Kevin, is participating in a cross-cultural experience in Guatemala City.
A senior at Bluffton University of Ohio, Kevin, was one of 25 students to participate in the three-week program sponsored by the Central American Study and Service organization, located in Guatemala City. The program teaches culture, language, mission work, and development for students.
“We knew nothing before David called us. Late that night we did get an e-mail from the school saying they were fine. But really that’s all we knew,” she said. “We spent the entire weekend out of our minds worrying. We still didn’t know where they were in relationship to Guatemala City, which is the biggest city, and we found out later that they were east of the city.”
White and her husband, Randy, frantically searched the Internet to find as much information as they could about the situation in Guatemala.
“At that point all we knew was Guatemala City was covered in five inches of ash and clean up had started until the hurricane hit,” she said.
White immediately called her contact at Bluffton University who had not heard from the advisor in Guatemala.
“We were just beside ourselves,” she said.
Even more frightening, White tried calling the CASAS facility in Guatemala with no answer.
“I had dialed that number repeatedly for two days and no one answered. I saw the sinkhole, the ashes that covered the city, and the news that kept saying the hurricane has hit. ... The flights were canceled, the airports were closed, and we were thinking ‘They’re not going to get home but are they even alive’,” she said.
Finally, she was able to get in touch with someone that put her in contact with the program advisor.
“And I said, ‘Just tell me Kevin’s alive.’ I was in tears at that moment. And [the advisor] said the students just got back to the facility from being out with [host] families and they were all fine,” said White. “That was such a relief.”
White also learned that the students would be staying at the facility and they had food and water. Later that evening she got an e-mail from the college that said the students would not be coming back on June 2, as was originally planned. A new flight has been arranged for Monday.
With limited access to a computer, Kevin did manage to send an e-mail home saying he was fine.
As a part of the mission aspect of the program, the students were told early on to bring items they could leave behind. Kevin packed with the idea of leaving what he brought behind as donations, White said. But now she knew he would most likely bring nothing home.
“He’s the type of person to give everything he has for people that need it. There are people down there with nothing now,” said White.
The flight is scheduled to arrive in Detroit and from there students will be taken to the university before heading home.
“I just want him to come home, get a hug from mom and then I know he’s going to want to sleep. I just want him home,” she said.
Guatemala Storm Sinkhole
A cavernous and almost perfectly round sinkhole swallowed an entire intersection in Guatemala City during a tropical storm, spooking people in the neighborhood but exciting geologists.