This NASA satellite image shows Hurricane Katrina bearing down on the Gulf Coast.
As the late Earth sciences professor Geoffrey Seltzer demonstrated in his pioneering work in hydrologic climatology, severe meteorological events have been part of life since before the development of a human capacity to document them. Our most ancient surviving literatures are replete with tales of flood, fire, drought, and pestilence, as well as responses—compassionate or otherwise—to the needs of victims. Among the striking features to emerge from the extraordinary catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina last summer is the central role played by the contemporary American university in both immediate and long-term responses to a public crisis of overwhelming proportions.
When disaster struck, Sean O’Keefe G’78, chancellor of Louisiana State University (LSU), did not hesitate to act, opening the Baton Rouge campus and mobilizing its resources beyond the obligations of formal contingency plans. “We had the institutional capacities to deal with the problems of security, transportation, shelter, food, and all the operational activities that are necessary to permit medical professionals to do their jobs,” says O’Keefe, a Maxwell School graduate and former Syracuse faculty member. “I am now collaborating with the heads of other universities in the Southeast Conference to create a how-to guide for every community in the region, so they can utilize universities in their recovery and rebuilding in ways that are, perhaps, different from what they might have expected of universities in the past.”
O’Keefe was one of many Syracuse alumni, students, faculty, and staff whose lives were affected by Hurricane Katrina. Some were residents of the destruction zone who lost their homes and jobs. Others were volunteers who followed their hearts south to contribute their skills and hard work to relief efforts. Chancellor Nancy Cantor, upholding the spirit of the University’s founders, opened the doors of Syracuse University to students whose educations were disrupted. Individual members of the University community followed her example by opening the doors of their homes to the displaced. “We send them our deepest sympathy,” Cantor says. “We admire their heroism, and we are committed to helping them recover and rebuild.” More than 475 students inquired about studying at SU until their campuses could recover, and by the first week in September more than 100 had registered as visiting students.
At 6:10 a.m. (CDT), on Monday, August 29, 2005, the eye of a tropical cyclone known as Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Plaque-Mines Parish, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans. Moving east-by-northeast with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, the storm spun like a buzz saw across coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to the western reach of the Florida panhandle, an area the approximate size of Great Britain. The hurricane only grazed New Orleans, but about five hours after landfall, breaches were spotted in sections of the levee system protecting the city from Lake Pontchartrain, a 630-square-mile salt-water estuary that sits at its northern boundary. The levee system collapsed, flooding most of the city, which until that day had about half a million residents. Destruction by wind and flood stretched across the Gulf Coast, displacing another half million and leaving five million more without power, some for as long as two months. The hurricane is believed to have caused about 2,000 deaths, but no accurate count can be made. In economic terms, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. In terms of need, compassion, and response, the nation was tested by its worst humanitarian crisis since the Great Depression.
Floating on Tar
As is often the case when a large-scale calamity occurs at home or abroad, graduates of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications’ Military Visual Journalism Programs were among the first on the ground. “I was stunned,” says U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate First Class Brien Aho ’02. “Trash and debris for miles, everywhere you looked; whole neighborhoods under water with only roofs showing; a Winnebago sitting on top of a house. At a battle site, you see one dwelling completely destroyed, but another is fine. Here, entire city blocks were leveled. The hurricane did not discriminate.”
Joshua Frances ’98, above, was part of a Massachusetts-based disaster medical assistance team that was deployed to Mississippi to provide emergency care to hurricane victims.
Navy Photographer’s Mate Second Class Michael Watkins ’05, a Mississippi native, was shaken by a helicopter ride over the Gulfport area, which he described as “reduced to splinters.” Watkins participated in Navy search-and-rescue operations in New Orleans, traveling in a small inflatable riverboat through the flooded streets of the hard-hit Ninth Ward, looking for people trapped in their homes. “Our mission was to get them to come back to the ship, where we could give them three meals a day, a hot shower, and things like that. Some came, but others refused,” says Watkins, who still grimaces at the thought of the toxic stew of chemicals, sewage, and human and animal remains that enveloped the city. “To call that stuff ‘water’ or ‘polluted water,’ or even anything associated with water is inaccurate. It was as if we were floating on tar.” At one point, his boat hit a car, which remained invisible right up until impact, though its roof sat only inches beneath the surface. “There was a scary moment when it looked like I was going to be thrown overboard,” he says. “I thought, ‘Oh, no—just shoot me. I don’t want to deal with that mess.’”
U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate
2nd Class Michael B. Watkins
U.S. Navy sailors help a New Orleans resident board the USS Tortuga, where Hurricane Katrina victims were given food and shelter.
Marine Corps photographer Staff Sergeant Steven D. Williams ’05 was touched by the courage and dignity shown by many of the victims. “We had to go a quarter-mile inland before we saw a standing structure,” Williams says. “We found an elderly couple and helped them move some destroyed furniture out of their home. Those poor people had lost everything else in the world, but they tried to give us some of their food and water. It said a little something to me about these Southern folks and, I believe, about the American spirit.”
Emergency worker Joshua Frances ’98 was also among the first on the scene. “I just couldn’t stay in Boston and watch this on TV,” he says. A program coordinator on bioterrorism at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Preparedness, Frances arrived in Alabama two days before landfall as a member of the Massachusetts-based Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MA-1-DMAT), which includes doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, and other health care workers. Deployed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Mississippi, MA-1-DMAT evacuated critically ill patients from Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg by helicopter, bus, and ambulance, then set up its own 35-bed mobile hospital unit, which can run without new supplies for three days.
Hurricane Katrina left an indelible mark of destruction along the Gulf Coast. Residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were faced with incredible losses as floodwaters and fierce winds destroyed homes and communities—their life possessions and irreplaceable memorabilia gone forever. Families were separated and displaced and loved ones perished amid the storm’s wrath and aftermath.
The reaction to this level of trauma is both complicated and predictable. Human beings respond to disaster by going through stages of recovery, beginning with denial of the extent of the impact and ending with integration of the experience. The reaction and subsequent recovery process is complicated by such factors as pre-existing health conditions and mental health status, socioeconomic realities, and community and familial support.
The recovery process is more than rebuilding with bricks and mortar. It is facilitating the grief work that individuals and communities need to do to integrate this experience into their lives. This work requires concerted efforts by private, local, state, and federal entities as well as families, friends, and neighbors. As response efforts continue, it is important that we recognize the incredible resilience of the human spirit. Most individuals, families, and communities will recover from this experience—able to function as well as or better than before.
—Professor Peg Miller and Professor Keith Alford,
School of Social Work, College of Human Services
and Health Professions
Media’s Lesson in Communications
The news media’s most important role was their immediate presence as witnesses to what was going on in the devastated areas. It showed how slow the government’s response was, particularly FEMA and associated agencies. Government officials were giving reasons why they couldn’t get into the area, yet there were the media, functioning and getting out information.
One of the government’s biggest problems was its insufficient planning for communications. As a result, there was no way for government officials at the various levels to coordinate their activities. They must have several layers of communication technology. The news media showed how to do it here, because many journalists who went into the region—even in the middle of the storm—were equipped with multiple communication devices. For instance, an editor in St. Petersburg, Florida, used a text device to direct a photographer where to go in New Orleans. Once the photographer shot his pictures, he beamed photos back to Florida using a satellite link. One of the photos—a picture of people wading through rising waters—made the front page of many newspapers across the country. Other reporters used picture phones in their coverage. The media not only got there on the ground, but they showed how to maintain contact throughout the ordeal.
The media also highlighted the important role of the Internet during a crisis. The staff of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans did absolutely brilliant journalism, even when they had to leave their downtown offices and had no way of distributing the newspaper. They provided coverage via the web. It is something the government and emergency responders need to be thinking about for future catastrophes.
—Professor Joan Deppa, Newspaper and
Visual and Interactive Communications
programs, S.I. Newhouse School of
Plan for the Future
This very serious disaster affected the area’s entire ecosystem. What is most worrisome is the rebuilding process. How much will government officials learn from this experience when they think about rebuilding? They have to consider immediate environmental problems as well as long-range ones.
Those problems can be divided into three parts. The first deals with the immediate cleanup involving water pollution and sewage issues. The next deals with factors that made it possible for the hurricane to do horrendous damage. The dikes in New Orleans were not sufficient, and the natural barriers, such as wetlands and marshes, were in terrible shape, eroded over the years by the development of the oil industry. The plan for revitalizing the ecosystem existed on paper before the hurricane hit. But, it costs billions of dollars and as a consequence the administration said, “You can’t do everything. What is most important?” They have to rethink the plan based on what happened and implement a plan that involves local, state, and federal officials with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The third part has to do with how to mitigate some of the dire effects of climate change some scientists predict by 2050. These are uncertainties, but the question is this: How much do you take into consideration when planning a major rebuilding effort? Predictions indicate that the sea surface will not only rise over the next 50 years, but also will be warmer, producing more Category 4 and 5 storms. You may look at Katrina not as a once-in-a-lifetime event, but one that will recur.
And this isn’t just a problem for New Orleans. It’s a problem for all low-lying cities. It becomes a question of how to get these longer-term issues into the decision-making process. It’s almost impossible to do that, because people are anxious to restore what they had before the great hurricane hit. In reality, it’s an opportunity to look ahead and rebuild with the future in mind rather than the past.
—Professor W. Henry (Harry) Lambright,
Public Administration and Political Science
programs, Maxwell School of Citizenship
and Public Affairs
|U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate First Class Brien Aho
An Army National Guard air crew member surveys the flooded streets of New Orleans before preparing to land near the Superdome.
The team treated about 125 emergency patients while power and water were restored at Forrest, then packed up the mobile hospital and moved on to another site. “Our role evolved from an immediate response rescue-and-recovery effort into a major public health mission in a matter of a few days,” says Frances, who had his first emergency medical training with Syracuse University Ambulance while majoring in speech communication at the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). “People needed antibiotics and tetanus shots. We treated wound infections and a lot of gastrointestinal problems caused by drinking unclean water. The critically injured were evacuated to major hospitals in unaffected areas. Helping people this way was a spectacular experience, personally and professionally.”
Bobbie Savage G’79, a DeWitt, New York, resident who holds an M.S.W. degree from the College of Human Services and Health Professions, volunteered as a mental health care provider for the American Red Cross. She was sent to Lafayette, Louisiana, about 100 miles west of New Orleans. “There are more than 6,000 displaced persons from New Orleans staying here in the Cajun Dome,” she wrote in a letter circulated to family and friends. “Many of them were separated from their children or other family members during the evacuation. They have come here with [nothing but] the wet and filthy clothes on their backs. The local volunteers are great. People are bringing what is needed by the carload. Imagine 6,000 persons, suddenly homeless in Syracuse, going to the Dome….” At the request of the Red Cross, Savage later returned to Louisiana. “The Red Cross was in desperate need of mental health workers,” she says. “This time I was in Monroe. I worked in a shelter there with about 1,000 evacuees. Some of these people were evacuated for a second time because of Hurricane Rita.”
Greg Bear ’04, a nurse living in Cooperstown, New York, did not have an affiliation with an organization such as the Red Cross, but was moved to act as he watched the disaster unfold on television. “I went online and searched until I found a list of telephone numbers on the State of Mississippi site,” he says. Bear was assigned by the State Board of Nursing to report to the Biloxi Regional Medical Center.
Steve Schlegel, an electrician for SU housing, also chose to do things his own way, using his vacation time to drive down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to see how he could help. “In Bay St. Louis, I came upon a man and two children sitting in a car with a smashed rear window, in front of a house that was less than half there,” he says. “It was 95 degrees. I told them we had a cooler full of cold Gatorade. They suddenly came running out of the car toward our van. They were filthy. Their clothes were dirty and worn. I couldn’t get the cooler open fast enough.”
Shannon Slatton G’02 covered rescue
efforts in New Orleans.
Shannon Slatton G’02, a reporter and news anchor at KTAL-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, journeyed to the disaster zone to cover the story of people from northwest Louisiana assisting in rescue efforts. She encountered frustrated volunteers who initially weren’t allowed into New Orleans, and witnessed the chaos, including looting, that ensued in parts of the city. She also saw the range of emotions displayed by victims and heard story after story. “One of the groups from St. Bernard’s Parish wasn’t rescued until Saturday,” says Slatton, a Newhouse broadcast journalism graduate. “They survived on a shrimp boat.”
Julie Kelley ’96, a news anchor at KATC-TV in Lafayette, Louisiana, provided coverage “as the devastation and despair unfolded live, on air,” she says. The Newhouse graduate cited the station’s role as a community resource, including its telephone helpline and relief drive, which provided information and help to thousands. She also took solace in people’s refusal to surrender. “The people of south Louisiana will not let two major hurricanes [Katrina and Rita] destroy the spirit here,” Kelley says. “That’s something even Mother Nature can’t get her hands on.”
Evacuation orders were issued by state and city officials throughout the region days in advance of landfall. A substantial number of residents did not leave, some because they preferred to stay, others because they had no way or nowhere to go. According to surveys done after the attempt to evacuate New Orleans in 2004 for Hurricane Ivan, about 80,000 city residents had no means of leaving the city. Jordan Pinsky ’05 considers himself lucky to have had both the will and the means to heed the warnings. A public relations graduate of the Newhouse School, Pinsky arrived in New Orleans just four weeks earlier to take a position with a marketing consulting firm. He quickly fell in love with the city’s culture, people, and lifestyle. “Music flowed from every street corner and no two people you met were the same,” he says. “It seemed like there was no better place to party than New Orleans.” When reports came in that Katrina had reached wind velocities of 170 miles per hour over the Gulf of Mexico, Pinsky realized that his brief love affair with the city had come to an end. He packed his car with what he could take and drove into 10 hours of stop-and-go traffic to a friend’s home in Atlanta, where he watched the storm’s aftermath unravel on television. Pinsky eventually joined family in Richmond, Virginia, where he landed a job with Strategic Marketing Solutions LLC. “I’m just happy to have gotten out when I did,” he says, “and happy to be alive.”
Suzanne Cox G’91 had deeper roots in the hurricane zone and could not make her getaway as swiftly or cleanly. She and her husband, Steven, evacuated their Long Beach, Mississippi, home to stay with friends in Florida while the storm wreaked its havoc. Five days later, they returned to find their house gone. “I didn’t cry and weep and wail, but I shook,” she says. “I had to count the concrete slabs from the corner of the block to figure out which was ours. Debris was everywhere: plastic bags, dead bloated animals, living room couches sprawled on the beach.” Long Beach took several hits from seawall surges as high as 28 feet. (A 30-footer, the largest ever documented on U.S. soil, pounded nearby Biloxi.) The surges leveled and carried away every structure, save the stumps of the tall oaks that had lined the streets of the beachfront community. Standing on the slab where her home had stood a week earlier, Cox realized she had the unobstructed view of the gulf she once envied; all 15 houses that stood in the way had vanished. A hand-blown glass sculpture, a gift from a friend, survived intact on the ground; her car was carried down the street and crushed to pieces.
Before the hurricane, Cox, who holds an M.F.A. degree in illustration from VPA, had accepted a position as an associate professor of art at Tulane to start in January, but subsequently had to decline the offer. Steven Cox, who worked in Mississippi’s riverboat gaming industry, received an offer from the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, New York, and the couple moved to Central New York. “God has opened this door,” she says. “We’re alive and we’ve got an income. Our hope is to put it all behind us. I love the idea that we’re coming back to an area that is so beautiful, where there are wonderful people—and no hurricanes.”
Two days before Katrina’s landfall, LSU calmly began preparing to meet its duties in Louisiana’s emergency contingency plan, converting an indoor soccer training facility into a temporary shelter for some 200 nursing home patients and other residents with special needs. “After the levees broke, we knew that we were facing an unprecedented situation,” O’Keefe says. “So we opened up the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where we play our basketball, and turned the building and the area around it into an acute-care facility. Within 48 hours of completing preparations, we had what amounted to an 800-bed hospital that was handling everything from cuts and bruises to intensive care, staffed by 750 medical personnel, including physicians, nurses, and technicians.” During the next several days, more than 6,000 people were treated at the Maravich Center. One physician called it “the largest acute-care field hospital in U.S. history.” An estimated 30,000 people were accommodated in some way—a meal, directions to a shelter, advice in navigating government bureaucracies—on the LSU campus during the crisis. “I was astonished and heartened to see students, faculty, and staff from every corner of our university moved to act,” O’Keefe says. “The university’s greatest capacity is its human resources. In that respect, it was an uplifting experience.”
Engineering Change on the Gulf Coast
Throughout history, every time we tried to fight against nature, we lost. The forces of nature are so gargantuan that no engineering system can be 100 percent effective against them. The levee system in New Orleans is one example. It was built to protect the city from a Category 3 hurricane, but it failed when Katrina—a Category 4—struck. Once the levee was breached, the second line of defense against flooding— the city’s pump system—was rendered ineffective. For the city to be protected in the future, in addition to building stronger and taller levees, perhaps we need to rely more on nature to fight against the forces of nature. This would involve restoring the marshes, wetlands, and barrier islands for use as the first line of defense against storm surges, and creating flood plains to which floodwater can be directed.
In addition, one might consider the following measures:
• Building floodgates to regulate the amount of water going in and out of Lake Pontchartrain when a storm hits.
• Breaching the levees with gated spillways to allow river sediments to be deposited in the marshes to help with their restoration.
• Regulating the amount of petroleum extracted from coastal areas to mitigate the rate of wetland subsidence.
• Using sensor technologies to monitor the levee systems, thus allowing for early detection and the resolution of any potential problems.
The above suggestions, if implemented, will have a myriad of undesirable financial consequences and political ramifications, making me wonder whether any politicians will seriously consider them.
—Professor Eric Lui, chair of the
Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, L.C. Smith College of
Engineering and Computer Science
Create a Model of Urban Ecology
New Orleans should not be seen as a fixed urban or cultural condition. What gives a place substance is its accumulated responses, planned and spontaneous, to inevitable demands for change. A community designed with covenants restricting change becomes a parody of “place,” a commodity devoid of vibrant urban culture.
New Orleans has been altered many times. Subject to fires in the 18th century, the city responded with building codes that generated the plastered masonry and tile-roofed buildings now associated with the French Quarter. The Mississippi shifted course in the 19th century, resulting in new land added to city blocks. A plan for a riverside expressway nearly separated the French Quarter from the river during the 1940s. A city’s form is constantly under discussion and must mutate and change over time.
This places preservation in a broader discourse on what a living city should contain and where it should head. I hope the city of New Orleans establishes a new balance with the larger hydrologic systems of which it is a part, perhaps through introduction of usable canals, an amenity of the city’s past that could enhance its future. I hope New Orleans becomes a model of urban ecology.
—Professor Anne Munly, School of Architecture
Suzanne Cox G’91 and her husband, Steven, evacuated their Long Beach, Mississippi, home, and returned to find nothing but debris and the foundation their home had stood on.
Return to Normalcy
Hurricane Katrina’s rude intrusion into American life reminds us of lessons learned from earlier natural disasters and also taught us some new lessons. Hard lessons. When the number of people in need instantly escalates into hundreds of thousands, the social support network is supremely challenged. In one instance, however, the challenge was met and exceeded. Two weeks into recovery, the American Red Cross Crisis Response Team had received so many volunteer applications from mental health counselors willing to spend at least two weeks in affected Gulf Coast states that it had to place a hold on all new applications.
Now that we have passed the immediate crisis, there remains the question of helping hurricane victims find some semblance of normalcy in their lives. That, too, is a tall order. Community services must be reestablished, schools must reopen, displaced families must find new housing and jobs, and children and families must be monitored for lingering and debilitating emotional reactions.
Will it be possible to return to a pre-Katrina existence? Probably not. The impact of Katrina was profound. It warped every thread of the social fabric of families, neighborhoods, villages, and cities. Where does one begin to reestablish some sense of normalcy? The challenge is not simply one of funding the rebuilding of a culture. It includes rebuilding a sense of emotional safety, community bonding, and hope for the future. And it requires serious preventive and remedial involvement by our nation’s mental health delivery system. Toward this end, the National Board for Certified Counselors web site (nbcc.org) has listed, by state, certified counselors who are providing pro bono services to Katrina victims.
—Professor Harold (Dick) Hackney,
doctoral program coordinator, Department
of Counseling and Human Services,
School of Education
Tulane University students gather at the entrance of SU’s London center, where they studied for the fall semester through the Division of International Programs Abroad.
Accepting Nature’s Power As Part of Life
If the level of devastation wrought by Katrina was compounded by a lack of preparedness, this may have something to do with a presumption that the United States lies outside the geography of nature’s random destructiveness. But the United States does not inhabit a distinct ecology or geology. The Gulf Coast states share the tropicality of Caribbean life, partaking of the flora and fauna—and the hurricanes. These ties help explain historical connections. One cannot imagine Louisiana without its ties to the Caribbean. President Jefferson could buy France out of the region only because Napoleon needed to recover the losses incurred in an unsuccessful effort to suppress the black slave insurrection that led to the founding of Haiti. This, in turn, led many of the colony’s white and mulatto planters to seek refuge in Louisiana, bringing with them their inescapable Caribbeanness and contributing it to the Creole texture of life in New Orleans.
When hurricanes or earthquakes complete their passages of destruction in the Caribbean, the survivors do not think of the experience as marking the end of things and requiring a brand new beginning, lest such a thought might encourage the belief that the scourge will never come back. Rather, they pick up the pieces that remain and prepare as they can to best withstand the next visit of the horror. Some might see that outlook as fatalistic. I suggest we see it as a realistic and respectful recognition that the power of nature outweighs that of the mightiest empires. As the people of the Gulf Coast states face the challenges of rebuilding and recovery, accessing their own submerged Caribbeanness might perhaps offer them the wisdom of a humble rapport with tragedy.
—Professor Silvio Torres-Saillant, director, Latino-Latin American Studies,
College of Arts and Sciences
High Ground Up North
Less than 72 hours after landfall, Chancellor Nancy Cantor extended an invitation to affected students to continue their educations at Syracuse University’s worldwide facilities, while their stricken campuses recovered. “Our amazingly generous faculty, staff, and community have opened their homes to these students and to faculty families and have made them feel truly welcome,” Cantor says. “Their kindness in helping people recover from this catastrophe is making a huge difference.” Brittany Koole, a first-year premed student at Tulane who had heard of several such possibilities to salvage the semester, searched the Internet for options. “Syracuse was the only school that had the information on its web site,” she says. Within two weeks, 180 displaced students from Loyola University, Tulane University, and the University of New Orleans had taken advantage of the offer. The visiting students included 93 undergraduate and seven graduate students temporarily enrolled through University College, and six law students temporarily enrolled through the College of Law. In addition to those taking classes on the Hill, 74 students were enrolled in the London, Florence, Madrid, and Strasbourg centers of SU’s Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA).
The University also provided special assistance to 21 SU students from the hurricane-ravaged area. According to Christopher Walsh, dean of financial aid, some of the students’ families lost homes and some didn’t have money to cover their tuition payments, books, and other financial expenses. In response, the University arranged grants and other awards to help the students in need. “Depending on individual circumstances, we responded as necessary to ensure the students would not only be able to stay, but could also expect the support they would normally receive from their families,” Walsh says. “As we go through the aftermath of the hurricane, we are committed to seeing that these students have the resources to complete their education here.”
Hendricks Chapel and the Department of Athletics organized collection drives that raised more than $72,000 for the Hurricane Katrina relief fund of the American Red Cross. The Hendricks Chapel Quiltmakers got busy, sending a shipment of handmade quilts to the Red Cross for distribution among the displaced in Texas. Students at the College of Law organized a special campaign for the Red Cross, offering donors of $10 or more a limited edition T-shirt. Federated Department Stores sponsored the effort, helping absorb production costs. Displaced students arriving in Syracuse were met by some 320 offers of long- and short-term housing by area residents, as well as many offers of household necessities. They were also given a special orientation by SU advisors who worked Labor Day weekend to help them out. Other acts of welcome were less formal. “I got e-mails every day from people holding dinners and events for ‘refugee’ kids,” says Ryan Bartholomew, a Tulane communications and marketing major.
|U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven D. Williams
A U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopter performs
a search-and-rescue mission over New Orleans.
Tim LeBeau, a Tulane doctoral candidate whose work focuses on the cultural history of New Orleans, did not expect to personally experience one of the most tumultuous events in the city’s history. Evacuated by bus with hundreds of other Tulane students to temporary shelter at Jackson State University in Mississippi, he lost most of what he had, including his car, to the storm. “I had my laptop, a book that I needed for my research, and a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which I had just started,” LeBeau says. “There’s still no saying as to what the damage is to my personal library. By now the heat and humidity may have turned the books to mush.”
When LeBeau arrived in Syracuse, he was invited to live at the home of history professor and associate vice chancellor Michael Flusche. “My wife, Grace, and I have an extra bedroom and we had a kind of spontaneous recognition of the opportunity to provide help to someone whose lifeline had been seriously interrupted,” Flusche says. “Tim is a particularly nice match because of his interests in history. He’s a very intense guy, an ideal graduate student—and he’s good about clearing after dinner.” Chemistry professor Bruce Hudson is playing host to Katrina evacuees Taviare Hawkins and Robert Salgado, a married couple expecting their first child. Both SU doctoral candidates in physics, the couple moved to New Orleans last summer to begin teaching jobs; Hawkins at Xavier University, Salgado at Dillard University. “Thanks to all the help we have received, we’ve been making good progress on our dissertations during our time back in Syracuse,” Salgado says.
Ethan Klipper, a Tulane sophomore, says hurricanes are an accepted part of life in Louisiana. “They are pretty common down there,” he says. “During my freshman year, we had to evacuate for a week, and then just came right back. This time, we duct-taped the windows so they wouldn’t shatter, and left town with some T-shirts and shorts.” By the time Klipper and his friends arrived in Atlanta, the lighthearted mood was gone. “I have never seen my friends so depressed as they were when watching the news channels that night,” Klipper says. “We all love Tulane more then you can imagine.” Michael Klipper ’69, Ethan’s father, telephoned SU history professor Roger Sharp to see what options were available at Syracuse. Ethan chose a semester abroad at DIPA’s Madrid center, as did five of his Tulane classmates. “I felt very proud of Syracuse’s quick response to this crisis,” Michael Klipper says. “It turned a frustrating, depressing situation into an important educational experience for these kids.” Tulane student Erin Barbach had evacuated to an Austin, Texas, hotel when she learned about the opportunity to study at DIPA’s London center. Within four days, she had booked a flight, packed, and readied herself for a semester abroad, an option she’d never before considered. “My professors have been so lenient with making up classes,” she says. “Syracuse has been so generous—it’s out of control.”
Global Warming Equals Global Problems
One of the many fascinating challenges in the Earth sciences is understanding the effects of global climate change through time and trying to determine to what degree human activity is responsible for the changes. And although scientists cannot predict what the climate will be like in the next few years, they are getting much better at predicting what is likely to happen to the global climate in the longer term. For the most part, those projections cannot be considered good news. For example, scientists commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Sciences Program are in agreement that the troposphere (the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere)—like the Earth’s surface—has been warming each year for the past several decades. The only discrepancy now is about exactly how much the troposphere has been warming per year, not if it is warming.
As a result of increased air temperatures, and thus ocean temperatures, it is predicted that although the number of hurricanes affecting the East Coast of the United States may not change in the future, their severity will likely increase. A serious, globally united effort must soon be undertaken to substantially reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere and causing global warming. Otherwise, our planet in the future will have few surviving glaciers, a significant rise in sea level, serious loss of tundra and permafrost regions, and far more severe hurricanes. Building bigger levees is not the answer.
—Scott D. Samson, Jessie Page Heroy
Professor of Earth Sciences, chair,
Department of Earth Sciences,
College of Arts and Sciences
|U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate First Class Brien Aho
A member of the Georgia Army National Guard helps a stranded New Orleans resident climb out of an opening
in a school building’s roof.
Feds’ Attitude Must Change
There were three issues with the government response to the disaster: a lack of leadership at the federal level; a lack of proper investment in planning at the federal level; and a lack of coordination. Comparing the response to Hurricane Rita, which hit just a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina, you saw stronger leadership from the federal government and federal, state, and local actors working more closely together. However, you can’t fix inefficiencies in investment in time and planning in the space of a few weeks. There are still lingering problems—failure to invest properly in FEMA and to take planning seriously.
I think, in part, there needs to be an attitude change. Under the Bush administration, there was a diffidence about the federal role in disaster response, an inclination that this was a state responsibility. Practically speaking, certain disasters require a federal response because they outstrip the capacity of state and local governments to respond. Politically speaking, the lesson is that it’s impossible for the federal government to take a secondary role when there is a major disaster that attracts continuous media coverage.
In looking at this disaster, there are likely to be questions about whether FEMA has the resources to prepare properly and about the rules of engagement, such as what the federal government does and when should it act if a disaster appears likely to strike. There are also going to be questions about whether we ought to be giving political appointees such a large role in FEMA’s leadership. These issues will likely take years to resolve.
—Professor Alasdair Roberts, director,
Campbell Public Affairs Institute,
Maxwell School of Citizenship
and Public Affairs
Daisy Fried, DIPA’s associate director, was proud of the way the program’s personnel rallied to help the displaced students over the mountain of paperwork involved in international study. “Many of our people worked long hours and gave up the Labor Day weekend to get everything done because we felt this was a wonderful contribution the University was making,” she says.
Kim Glazer-Goldberg ’80 grew up in New Orleans, and raised her son, Evan Goldberg ’09, in the city. When the hurricane hit, she was in Manhattan clearing out the apartment of her 92-year-old grandmother, Alice Shapiro, who had moved to a New Orleans nursing home a month earlier. Evan Goldberg was in Syracuse that day, attending freshman classes. During the next 72 hours, mother and son learned that Shapiro was not evacuated from the nursing home and died in the stifling heat after loss of power shut down the air conditioning. They also learned they would not be able to live in their house in the Uptown section of New Orleans during the foreseeable future. “I would like to return to New Orleans eventually, but I’m not going back until I can be sure it is environmentally safe,” Glazer-Goldberg says. For now, she is living in her grandmother’s New York City apartment and has enrolled Brooke, her 13-year-old daughter, in school there. “It’s surreal,” says Evan Goldberg, echoing a sentiment expressed repeatedly by the hurricane’s survivors. “You don’t think something like this could ever happen to you.”
Katherine Cantor, Margaret Costello, Stephen deJony, Kathleen Haley, Jennifer Kushlis, and Amy Shires contributed to this report.