The anticipation of returning to Tulane University where she was to begin her junior year had Leanne Heine of Riverside eager to see her friends and begin classes at a school she had grown to love. But the arrival of Hurricane Katrina changed everything, just a week and a day after she arrived at the university.
Located in the uptown area of New Orleans, Tulane University is in hurricane territory. With that in mind, the school had an evacuation plan in place for its students. They were notified by e-mail from University President Scott Cowen to evacuate on Saturday, the day freshman students were arriving on campus.
The message changed the starting date for classes, but as Katrina changed course, the school eventually came to the realization that not only would classes start late?”there would be no fall semester at all.
Leanne heeded the advice to evacuate and was fortunate to have a car. She promptly gathered what she felt she would need and set out for a gas station. She went to three gas stations before she was able to fill the tank.
Her destination was Texas, and she encountered some traffic at Baton Rouge. Her course out of New Orleans was via the Contraflow a hurricane evacuation plan, designed following Hurricane Ivan, which had only recently been completed. Leanne went west to Austin, Texas where she stayed for two days before going to Dallas and the return trip home. Many students who did not have access to cars were bused to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.
Leanne credits the university and its president for being prepared for the welfare of the students. She stated that, as a freshman, she had received information on what to do in the event of a hurricane. The university, meanwhile, has made provisions for its athletic teams to stay together so they may continue practices and games for their fall season and are being accommodated by various colleges. The athletes will also be able to attend classes at other institutions in cooperation with Tulane.
Leanne and a friend got to work to find a school they could attend this fall, settling on Marquette University in Milwaukee. As you read this column, they are already there hitting the books. She was very relieved to find different schools helping students continue their educations. She is sure she will enjoy her time at Marquette but says she “couldn’t imagine not going back to Tulane.”
She describes New Orleans as many different types of neighborhoods and expressed sympathy for those in the poorer sections of the city who had no way to leave and how a more prompt response by authorities would have helped.
Before leaving the university, she said Tulane had only minor roof damage, although many trees were down. In all, however, there was not much damage to the uptown section. She is in contact with the university through a student Web site and one from the university president. She looks forward to returning to the school and says, “I don’t want New Orleans to lose its personality.”
Her experience also led her to see the best in her friends as they shared in the experience of Hurricane Katrina. As in many events, and Hurricane Katrina is no exception, the best and the worst come out in people. Let it only bring out the best in you; support relief efforts in some manner.