A Break in the Weather
Published in Inside - Volume XI, No.3
11/9/2005 4:17:00 PM
It wasn't the surprise Samantha Morrison's friends had planned for her birthday. Instead of opening the door on a room full of decorations and grinning classmates, Morrison - a Ph.D. candidate in Education and Psychology at Tulane University-'"found herself fleeing New Orleans on the eve of fall semester to avoid the path of Hurricane Katrina.
"At the time, I was upset that I was going to miss dinner," Morrison recalls. "I had no idea how bad it would be." Evacuations can be a routine part of life for New Orleans residents during the hurricane season, and Morrison, who had enrolled at Tulane in 2001 and was preparing to finish her coursework this semester, had heard many false reports of killer storms.
In fact, when she packed her car for
The picture began to change when she reached
"Traffic was at a standstill," Morrison says. "We sat there, listening to the storm reports on National Public Radio, playing a game of 'What Did I Wish I'd Brought With Me?' Photographs, jewelry - it was all still back there."
The trip, which took 14 hours and was accompanied by a barrage of horrific sights and news reports, left her numb. "We saw a car on the side of the road that had exploded, and was on fire. We just kind of looked at it, said 'Oh,' and kept driving."
Still, by the time they reached
Fortunately, Morrison grew up in upstate
With life and limb secured, Morrison called her advisor at Tulane, but no one knew when or whether school would continue. At that point, she began phoning around to universities in
The first few weeks were tough. With no real home and only a week's worth of clothes, "I felt like a freshman all over again," Morrison says. Worse, all her research for her dissertation on children's responses to community violence was back in
Still, she says, "everyone at TC, from the registrar to admissions, was great to me. The professors were great, and made me feel incredibly welcome."
Finally, nearly a month after the storm hit, Morrison got word that she could return to
"You could only drive on some streets because others were covered with debris. As we drove, we saw homes with makeshift signs saying things like - 'You Loot, We Shoot!' Not only were street lights not working, they were gone."
Much will have been rebuilt by the time Morrison returns in the spring to Tulane, where she'll work as a Teacher's Assistant and apply for internships. Yet