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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2001

Tornado drills help save Sylvanian

Julie Greenspoon is thanking the lessons she learned at Highland Elementary School for helping her get through a deadly tornado that ripped through her apartment complex late last month in College Park, Md.

She was studying in her apartment on Sept. 25 when a thunderstorm spawned a tornado.

Instinctively, Julie headed for the bathroom.

“I remembered the drills where we would go into the hallway and crouch near our lockers,” she said. “The hallway was an interior area, so in my apartment the best place to go was the bathroom and I did that and then crouched down in the bathtub.”

As the tornado passed over her apartment building, the storm blew in her windows, sending shards of glass throughout the apartment.

“I was on my hands and knees shaking, and I remember I was angry that I had forgotten to bring a hardcover book, like we had been told. It would have been something to cover my head and neck,” she said.

The tornado killed two students, injured 50, and cut a wide swath through the University of Maryland campus.

“I've never been more scared in my life,” Julie said, “when the force of the tornado rushed through the area, blowing out windows and taking off roofs.”

Ms. Greenspoon, a senior at the university who graduated from Sylvania Southview in 1998, said that she loves thunderstorms and initially had welcomed the growing clouds and approaching gloom. But when she went to her window, the clouds began to twist into a funnel.

Then she remembered those elementary school lessons that, it turns out, are invaluable.

Ms. Greenspoon said many of her fellow students grew up in areas where tornadoes seldom strike and they didn't move quickly enough to get away from windows, which resulted in some being cut by broken glass.

She was allowed in her home last week but said the area shows signs of the storm. A trail she jogged on is impassable because of uprooted trees, and many golf courses are unplayable.

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