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Page 6

Lake Region State College:

Celebrating 75 years

“Captain” Etemad and Crew navigate

college through deluge of flood refugees


n Friday afternoon, April 18,

1997, the campus of UND-

Lake Region was quiet. Some

Grand Forks students had gone

earlier in the week to help sand-

bag their families’ homes against

rising Red River floodwaters. A

busload of college volunteers was

returning after a day of sandbag-

ging in response

to a call for help

from UND Presi-

dent Kendall Bak-

er, but even they



that the next day

would begin one

of the most chal-

lenging episodes

in local history.



night, the Red

River reached 54

feet above flood



higher than the

projected crest—

and the flood of the century had

begun. Residents of Grand Forks

and East Grand Forks were evacu-

ated. Traffic stopped. Electricity

was cut off, and water and sewer

services were suspended. A dark,

cold silence settled over the de-

serted city.

On Saturday morning, April

19, North Dakota’s governor

requested that UND-Lake Re-

gion become an emergency flood

shelter. Executive Dean Sharon L.

Etemad suspended the remainder

of the spring semester and com-

mitted all resources of the college

to the flood relief effort. By mid-

morning, college staff and citizen

volunteers were inventorying

food supplies. A donation center

was organized, and the telehone

company set up a bank of phone

lines. A health center appeared

in the Nurse Assistant Training


Gradually, flood victims be-

gan to arrive. They registered and

received tetanus shots and moved

on to the dining room where hot

food was provided around the

clock. Many used the phone bank

to line up accommodations. Motel

rooms in the area quickly filled.

Shelters were provided on cam-

pus, at Camp Grafton, and at the

Lakewood Bible Camp.

A daily newsletter,

The Shelter


, was launched, and a mes-

sage board blossomed near the

main entrance.

Meetings were

held daily to

coordinate shelter

efforts with the

National Guard,

the Red Cross, the

Salvation Army,

FEMA, and other

public agencies.

By Friday,

May 9, more than

4,300 people had

passed the regis-

tration desk, and

over 640 volun-

teers had helped.

The health center

had administered over 1,200 teta-

nus shots, and amazingly, over 22

thousand meals had been served.

In the end, nearly fifty college

personnel had provided an esti-

mated total of 3,000 volunteered

hours of effort—a proud record.

The task of transforming a

college into an evacuation shel-

ter should be a gargantuan task

requiring months of planning. At

UND-Lake Region it happened ...

almost magically! Campus per-

sonnel took the lead, and commu-

nity members joined. They contin-

ued to work together around the

clock until the need subsided and

the shelter could be closed.

In retrospect, it wasn’t magic

that made our shelter so success-


“The thing I love most about a

community college is its commit-

ment to serving its community,”

explained Dr. Etemad.

“We try to

make community service a top prior-

ity. I think it was that determination

to be the community’s college that

made it easy for us to fling the doors

wide open during this crucial tme.”

—Branches, fall 1997 —

“... your kindness had a great

impact on each of us—giving

us reassurance that people

still care and still stop to help

their fellow human beings in a

time of need.”

Written in a thank you letter

from Diana Deats-O’Reilly

Grand Forks flood survivor

... even they

didn’t suspect

that the next day

would begin one

of the most chal-

lenging episodes

in local history.

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