Blog Post

Inspired By a Friend After Hurricane Katrina

Before watching "When the Levees Broke," I knew that Hurricane Katrina affected New Orleans and the surrounding area so intensely because of the vast number of residents who stayed in their homes in attempts to "ride the storm out." These inhabitants of New Orleans soon became victims as the canal walls were breached and the bowl shaped city filled up. One may ask, why didn't people just evacuate when they were warned? In response, it was impossible for some to leave. With so many in need of public transportation, it just was not feasible to get everyone out of the city...or was it? It's easy to sit here and think "what if" and "why not" because I wasn't forced to live through the horror that they endured. I don't work for the Red Cross or the government and so I could not have had any say in what happened. But why am I trying to remove myself from it? Humans naturally shy away from negative occurrences and confrontation it seems. In the documentary, there was a man who asked where the help was the first couple of days after the storm and subsequent flood. I felt "blamed" by him because I did not feel extremely responsible at the time. Even now, I feel so insignificant when it comes to taking action and aiding the victims of Katrina. What can I do? Sure, I donated money to help the cause, but I feel like that was the "easy way out."

About three weeks after Katrina started the trauma in New Orleans, I witnessed an individual take a brave step to help people displaced by the storm. In September, I was just starting the two-week training process to be a Resident Advisor at Ohio State. My "Co-RA," Glenn, and I were decorating our floor with fun OSU facts to spread the OSU spirit, planning activities that we would do with our residents, and getting to know one another. It was looking like a great year was ahead of us. Two days before residents moved in, he was given an opportunity to move into an old fraternity building, called the Minoan House, that would house approxmately thirty students from Tulane University who needed a place to continue their education since they had been displaced. The students would stay for Autumn quarter and then go back to Louisiana. Glenn weighed the options set before him. He had been a RA in Smith Hall the previous year; there were so many friendships he had made and still valued there. Also, we had done so much planning and strategizing for how to make the year flow smoothly. He could easily have said "Thank you for the opportunity and compliment of asking me to do this, but I feel obligated to stay in Smith Hall." But, would that have have been easy? I know he prayed about this decision and confided in some close friends and family. In the end, he sat down with me and asked me to choose for him. He said he would stay on our floor or go to the Minoan House - it was up to me. As much as I wanted to work with Glenn and learn from him, I felt that he was needed by the Tulane students more than our residents...even though it may seem trivial, I know Glenn impacted those students positively in the aftermath of such a tragedy. I'm proud of him and OSU for opening their arms to help others. Also, I'm glad I was able to inadvertently be involved in some way other than watching a TV screen.

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1 comment

Levi C. Preston

I'm in the Ohio National Guard and nearly had the opportunity to travel down and make myself useful in the assistance of the Rita disaster so in a way my life was affected by a tragedy that took place several states away as well. There is no way of comparing having owned a home in New Orleans to the fears, uncertainties and preparations of a deployment to the area but a few things struck me in retrospect after viewing Spike Lee's documentary project.

I had always assumed that the people were locked inside of the Superdome but after realizing this wasn't the case I couldn't help but wonder why people went so far as to die inside. There were old folks and others who knew busses would eventually arrive but my natural instincts as a survivor force me to insist that if I felt like I was in danger of dying in a place like that, I'd have to get out, even if it meant make-shifting a raft and paddling my way out of the state. I'm sure people will have feelings both ways on this assertation.

Another part of the documentary that really touched me was the heartache and helpless despair projected by the man who's mother died outside the Superdome. He stayed with her body for another day after she passed but was eventually forced to push her to the side of the building by coordinators who were compiling bodies of those lost, later the gentleman was forced to leave her there all together. It becomes unclear whether or not he was able to retrieve her remains in the aftermath of the event. It's a devestating thing to lose a parent in itself but to be forced through total helplessness to abandon the body in an effort to save your own life is a a heart crushing addition. I can't imagine some of the horrors people were forced to suffer in an event as unpredictable and uncontrollable as this one was.

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