Seeing through the storm

Sept. 17, 2005, midnight | By Cole Brown | 15 years, 9 months ago

One college student's Hurricane Katrina experience

Until Aug. 27, things seemed to be going great for Zachary Brown. He had just moved into Loyola University in New Orleans where he planned to study music performance and industry in Loyola's highly praised music program. At the time, no one at Loyola knew that Hurricane Katrina was poised to strike the Gulf Coast. Brown is one of thousands of students forced to evacuate New Orleans because of the hurricane.

"I go to bed Friday night and wake up on Saturday morning and I'm expecting to take a bus trip around New Orleans to look at community service opportunities when my hall mate told me we had to evacuate," he explains. At first he thought it was a joke, but he soon found out that Hurricane Katrina had gained strength and was heading straight towards New Orleans.

As he sat in disbelief, his parents, Jeffery and Joanne Brown, called him and told him to pack up whatever he could, for they were planning to fly down to the city the next day to help him evacuate. "I gathered about four days worth of clothes, my two trumpets, and my computer," he says. His parents arrived and rented a minivan to carry all of his things. They drove to his parents' hotel just outside of New Orleans where they were told to evacuate north, but traffic in that direction was deadlocked. "Everyone said 'Go north,' but we couldn't go north so we went north-west to Tyler, Texas." After the Brown family finished the 10-hour drive, they transferred the departure city on their airline tickets from New Orleans to Dallas.

Tyler, Texas was a barren town consisting mainly of "a muffler shop, a chicken place and a park," he laughs. "That's about it." They waited a day in Tyler until their flight was due to depart from Dallas, their new departure point. They left the next morning at 5 a.m., drove to Dallas and flew back to their home in New Jersey.

What's next?

Brown's adventure was far from over when he finally arrived in his hometown of Teaneck, N.J. "The [Loyola] website, phone line… all that stuff was down," he explains. "A few days later when they got this emergency website up we found that other Jesuit universities would accept Loyola students and would honor whatever tuitions and scholarships we had," he continues. So Brown decided to transfer to Fordham University in the Bronx. "Fordham has what appeared to be an extensive music program," he says. Since the school is fairly close to his home, he can commute to his classes. Fordham's registration process was hassle free; all Brown had to do was speak to the dean of the school and transfer his information from his high school. Over the next few days he was admitted and registered at Fordham.

"I'm there as of now for only a semester because Loyola is saying that they should be opening up for spring," he says. "Once they get the water out [of New Orleans] they have to figure out what they have to repair." Brown plans on attending Fordham until Loyola reopens.

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