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Families Wait For Word From Relatives Trapped In Kuwait, Iraq

August 18, 1990

Undated (AP) _ For Mary Trundy, the tense wait for word from her twin brother trapped in Kuwait is all too familiar. Eleven years ago he escaped from Iran just hours before militants seized the U.S. Embassy.

″Its a nightmare that doesn’t end,″ Trundy said from her home in Brockton, Mass., about 20 miles south of Boston. ″It’s just too much now, two times in a row.″

Trundy - who has not heard from her brother since the day of the Iraqi invasion - is among thousands of Americans searching for news about the fate of loved ones stranded in Kuwait and Iraq. Some are even organizing support groups.

The sense of alarm that relatives feel was heightened Friday when the speaker of Iraq’s parliament said all foreigners from ″aggressive nations″ - presumably including the 3,000 Americans in Iraq and Kuwait - would be held until the threat of war against his country ends.

He said they would be spread throughout the country, housed in military and civilian targets.

Trundy’s brother, 43-year-old John Stevenson, called Trundy twice the day of the invasion. He told her he hoped to escape to Saudi Arabia but had a stomach virus and probably would wait to leave the following day.

″He said he woke up to the jets and the bombing,″ Trundy said. ″He said it was just like Iran again, only that they weren’t shooting in the streets.″

In 1979, Trundy waited several days to hear from her brother as he and colleagues fled Iran through Turkey. Stevenson had worked in Iran for a Texas- based computer firm.

Soon after leaving Iran, Stevenson went to work in Kuwait as a computer systems analyst for a bank, Trundy said.

″He seemed to think it would be all right there,″ Trundy said. ″He really liked the country and people.″

Also among those stranded in the Mideast is a 14-year-old Pittsburgh girl.

On Aug. 2, Dr. Chandra Polam put his daughter, Vinil, on a British Airways flight to Madras, India, where her grandparents awaited her arrival.

But the plane was intercepted by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait, where it landed for a scheduled stop, and most of its 367 passengers have been detained there.

″I’m sure she’s scared, not knowing what’s going to happen,″ Polam said. ″My biggest worry is what’s going through her mind.″

About 20 of those aboard the British Airways flight, including 10-year-old Penelope Nabokov, were bused from Kuwait to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. From Baghdad, the California girl and 10 other Americans were able to reach freedom through Jordan.

For Polam, the past two weeks have been filled with anxiety, confusion, frustration and grief. Airline officials have told Polam his daughter is safe at a hotel near the Kuwait airport. But that did little to allay his anxiety.

″I’m hoping and I’m praying and I’m making a desperate plea to the Iraqi government,″ he said. ″She’s a child. She’s by herself. Show mercy.″

Meanwhile, in the eastern Iowa town of Monticello, Nedra Hanken awaited word of her 31-year-old daughter, Beth, who along with her husband has lived for the past five years in Kuwait.

″We haven’t heard anything and I don’t know that any other American families have, either. I don’t think any messages are getting in or out,″ Hanken said.

Hanken said she thinks President Bush is handling the crisis well but added, ″I hope there’s more going on behind the scenes than we see.″

In Odessa, Texas, Donnita Cole said: ″The hardest is the waiting and the not knowing. You wait for the telephone to ring. When it doesn’t ring, you worry to death.″

Her husband is an employee of OGE Drilling Co. and has been living in Kuwait City.

″And then when it does ring there’s just a tiny moment there you’re afraid to pick up the phone and say hello, because you don’t know what’s going to be said over it,″ she said.

Mrs. Cole said she had developed a mini-support network of other families in the same situation.

″There’s several of us that talk every day. We kind of give each other moral support when one of us starts to crack a little,″ she said. ″I think we’re going to be in for quite a long spell on this.″

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