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More in After the storm

The role of culture | The role of religion | The environment | Political fallout | Helping the victims | The face of Katrina

First person

Chere’l Barrett
sophomore biology major
Dillard University transfer

We only had about one day’s notice to evacuate before Katrina hit. My roommate Sherine Tatum and I didn’t have a chance to get many of our things. Then, as we were leaving New Orleans the bus we were riding on caught on fire. So we came here with basically nothing.

Sherine is from Fort Worth and we heard TCU was accepting students, so we just jumped on the bandwagon. When we got here, we were placed in the lounge at Wiggins Hall with Cecile Mitchell, who’s also from Dillard, and Taneekwa Ross, who’s from Tulane. When other rooms became available we decided to stay in the lounge because we liked the setup.

At Dillard, there’s only about 3,000 students. And everybody knows each other. So it was kind of an adjustment coming to TCU. But it’s starting to become that way here. I like small schools like this.

We’d like to go back to Dillard (next fall), but we’re just going to wait and see. Whatever happens, I’m going to tell my children about this.

Dominica Purdy,
senior English major
Transfer from Dillard University

It was extremely difficult to leave my independent life with my own apartment, bills, job, etc. and come back home to my parents. It kind of killed my spirit and motivation for working hard towards anything. My second obstacle would have to be adjusting to school at TCU. Coming from an historically black university and going to TCU was more difficult than I thought it would be, especially since I am from Fort Worth.
\While everything I had was OK, I have a lot of friends who went back to find all of their possessions consumed in mold. I didn’t even realize certain things were able to mold.
I now pay more attention to disasters around the world. I used to look at them like, “Awww, I feel so sorry for those people,” but now I look at things and say,”Is there anything I can do?”

Kathryn Kuzmich Lemieux ’93
Kathryn, her husband Chris and their two small daughters left their home in Metairie, La., for a funeral three days before Katrina hit. It was weeks before they returned to their sodden house in the suburbs of New Orleans. Following are excerpts from an e-mail sent Sept. 30.

Our first floor got several feet of water, and when we got there we found mold growing 3 to 4 feet above the water line. The first time tears streamed down my face was when I opened the cabinet that held all my yearbooks, photo albums and scrapbooks from my entire life and found them wet and covered in mold. I have nothing before 2000.

The other time was when I looked in my closet and saw all my show prints ruined. More than 50 framed pieces wet with sewage. I know it will be a long time before I get back in a darkroom and make them again.

Basically I am soooo lucky. I have my family. We have a house to return to – hopefully by Christmas. My husband still has his job – even though there is a huge pay cut. So many of our friends have lost their jobs on top of their homes.

When we return only a couple of my friends will be there. The rest are moving because they have nothing to return to. My mother-in-law lost her house by the 17th Street canal. It was very sad walking in her neighborhood, seeing holes in roofs and ladders out of second floor windows where people made escapes.

Peoples’ eyes looked empty. It was like a war zone – I thought surely I am not in the U.S. The Army and National Guard were everywhere. They were great, gave us ice, MREs (meals ready to eat), water and helped us with our homes. I saw more guns than I do during hunting season. There is no word in the English language that describes this situation. I have used surreal – but that is too weak.

God has a plan for us all – what does not kill us makes us stronger. You never know when the rug will be pulled out from under you. Luckily we were good savers and do not have any debt – other than a mortgage. You just never know when everything you know could be gone. This is my "Great Depression," and I will have so much to tell my children and grandchildren.

Jeremy Boyer ‘05 (MSNA)
Jeremy is a third-year nurse anesthesia student assigned to Baton Rouge General Hospital for his clinical residency. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail he sent to Kay Sanders, Director of the School of Nurse Anesthesia on Sept. 27.

I could fill several pages about the field hospital. Needless to say, it is overwhelmed with patients. When I arrived on Tuesday, it was divided into two buildings on the LSU campus – the indoor track and field building, and a dome where basketball is played. One building was basically a huge ER where patients were triaged and sent to area hospitals. The other was a special needs place, for dialysis and diabetics who were controlled, and anyone else they could fit in the building.

We met patients who were a day or two post-op who had been walking in chest-deep water, diabetics with wounds, patients who were discharged from New Orleans hospitals with a few days’ supply of IV antibiotics and extension tubing on their central lines so they could continue their meds.

We saw a doctor place a chest tube with a pocket knife on a patient with bilateral tension pneumothorax [collapsed lungs] whose chest tubes had come out. He used a foley [a type of tube used to drain the bladder] as the tube. They were black-tying [placing a black ribbon on] patients who they didn’t feel they could help.

We were told just to try and keep them comfortable, although at first we did not have any medicines. We mostly started IVs and helped clean up patients; there were several patients on ventilators we helped care for – suctioning, hand ventilating.

When we went back the next day after a few hours sleep the ER triage center was a full-blown hospital, with MICU patients, SICU patients, PED, MEd/surg, neuro and cardiac and thousands of people outside waiting to be seen.

There were doctors from every specialty there, along with nurses from every specialty. Ross Castille ’05 (MSNA) got to intubate [insert a tube into] a patient who had walked up with a headache and was having a major evolving CVA [aaaacerebral vascular accident/stroke].

We left yesterday around 5 p.m. and came back to work today. Things are beginning to overwhelm the Baton Rouge hospitals.

I spoke with my mother who is a NICU nurse in Lafayette and the same things are occurring in their hospitals. She said they shut down a major road for helicopters to land on with evacuated NICU and PICU patients. It is semi-controlled chaos here with little chance of things improving in the near future.

Please just pray for the people here.

Lauren Glorioso
TCU parent from New Orleans area

Practically the first thing we did when we got to Fort Worth after leaving Metairie was head to the financial aid office to work out tuition for the year. The TCU community has big arms and met us with open arms. They alleviated our worst anxiety as soon as we got there, assuring us that our son Jonthan would be able to stay in school and we would work something out. Now we are living on the second floor of our home and going to a former restaurant for groceries. It doesn’t matter what you did before, and what your lifestyle was like before. Now all our lifestyles are changed, and they’re all the same.

Maureen Mezzino Patton ’64
Director of the Grand 1894 Galveston Opera House

When we got the evacuation order, my staff and I secured the theater as best we could. Doing that to a four-story complex with artwork on the walls, archival materials, desktops, computers, etc., took us the rest of Tuesday to do. Using plastic bins, heavy plastic bags, and Saran Wrap (we literally wrapped a line of about 15 file cabinets in the store room in the Saran Wrap to give them an extra level of protection), we locked up The Grand to go to our own homes.

Now you'd never guess that Galveston had the scare of its life. The Grand escaped the storm with nary a window broken (there are 92 of them). Our phones are ringing for tickets; we’re sending out rescheduling notices. We’re now collecting donations for Hurricane Rita victims. This roller coaster ride has been scarier than any I’ve experienced and I’ve been on a lot of the “fun” kind, from Texas to New York, Florida to Ohio. I prefer the amusement park variety.

Tiffany Ameen ’05
New Orleans alumnae

I left New Orleans two weeks before Katrina and had to watch from Los Angeles. It was devastating. It was fearful. When you’re there, you think you have some kind of control over the situation. This tragedy laid so heavily on my heart that I wrote a song I called “The Place I Call Home,” and got in touch with a big producer in LA who produced the song. We’re hopefully going to use that in concert benefits with people from the South and maybe put together a tribute CD with a whole bunch of people on it.

I hope to be with a major label by February. My main focus right now is to be as successful as I can be in order to take care of those I love.”

Blessing of the Animals

Several students, local residents and TCU employees gathered with their furry, winged and flop-eared friends for a Blessing of the Animals ceremony in early October. The Reverends Angela Kaufman, below, and Katie Low offered individual blessings to pets who brought their owners to the front steps of Robert Carr Chapel. The service was a fund-raiser for Noah’s Wish, a non-profit organization that rescues animals in the midst of natural disasters.

Greeks raise funds, spirits for hurricane victims

Hurricane Katrina was a tragedy that struck close to home for many students — and the rallying call for Frogs from every corner of campus.

Students worked under the University Ministries umbrella, as well as initiated efforts on their own. Two key organizers in the now-ongoing hurricane relief efforts are Kappa Sigma President Trevor Heaney ‘07 and Sigma Alpha Epsilon President John Athon ‘06. Both emphasized that efforts are not just coming from Greeks but campus-wide.

“I don’t know of anyone who’s not helping out,” Heaney said, saying that efforts have included canned food, clothing and cash drives, as well as volunteer labor. The Kappa Sigs, who volunteer with Habitat for Humanity locally each semester, are also hoping to take a trip to New Orleans with the home building ministry.

In addition to regularly passing the coffee can to raise funds at chapter meetings, TCU SAEs took on the SMU chapter in a Iron Skillet skeet shootout. TCU SAEs took home the trophy, while the groups raised close to $15,000 for the Red Cross, Athon said. SAEs also reached out to evacuees who moved in close to campus, inviting them to tailgate parties and collecting toys and games for the kids, “Just to help make their stay here in Fort Worth a better one,” he said.

Watching family and friends deal with the hurricane aftermath has changed the outlook for many student volunteers.

“It kind of burst the whole idea of a TCU bubble. There is a bigger community outside of just TCU,” Athon said. “Some of the guys in our chapter who I never thought would get involved in something like this really became excited about it and really became eager to help.”

Heaney agreed. “It’s been pretty nice to see how everyone can rally behind one set cause, pull together; all the chapters working together to make sure that what needs to get done gets done.”

Athon worried that people might think the effort was just a Greek thing. “This isn’t a Greek thing at all. This is a TCU-people-helping-other-people thing.”

By the numbers:

$13,500 donated to hurricane relief efforts, organized by University Ministries

$10,000 allocated by the House of Student Representatives to help affected students pay rent, phone charges and other living expenses

$5,500 raised by TCU students through the Guatemalan Hope Project to help victims of Hurricane Stan

2,000 pounds of food donated to agencies working with evacuees

42 Katrina evacuees enrolled at TCU, including 15 freshmen

5 universities or colleges from which evacuees enrolled at TCU transferred: Dillard, Tulane, Xavier and Loyola universities and William Carey College

1 super-size gift of backpacks, notebook paper, crayons, folders and pens donated by University Advancement employees for the Arlington school district to help evacuees attending schools in the district.


Comment at tcumagazine@tcu.edu.