Region Students Find Home Away From Home
By Sarah Gauché
After fleeing from her New Orleans
apartment through the early winds of Hurricane Katrina, traveling
through the night with a stranger to Baton Rouge, living with
a friend for a week of uncertainty, and driving 26 hours straight,
Shalane Loehn finally arrived at Smith.
It was Wednesday, September 7,
the day before classes began. By telephone, Smith administrators
had already helped Loehn, an undergraduate at Loyola University
in New Orleans, sign up for classes so that she would not
lose a semester to the hurricane that ravaged the Gulf region.
Loehn, of Williamsburg, Mass.,
joined five other students who attend colleges and universities
damaged by Hurricane Katrina, in accepting an offer from President
Carol T. Christ to take fall classes here free of charge.
“We offer our sympathy
to everyone affected by Hurricane Katrina,” said Christ
on September 2, the week Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf
region. “By opening our classrooms, we hope to lessen
disruption in the lives of displaced students.”
In addition to waived tuition,
Smith is providing meals and books to the six displaced students.
Now as midterm looms, Loehn,
Eban Broussard, Hind Bouachrine, Robert Davis, Lauren King
and Janira Rodriguez are adjusting to the rhythm and routine
of life on a different campus as their lives recover from
a monumental interruption.
Loehn, class of 2008, had spent
the summer between her first and sophomore years living and
working in New Orleans. On Monday, August 29, when Hurricane
Katrina moved aground and quickly advanced on New Orleans,
Loehn recalls a surreal sense as hundreds of thousands of
city residents abandoned their neighborhoods.
On Saturday, August 27, she missed
the voluntary evacuation call because she was at work. When
she awoke the next morning, the city had fallen quiet with
an uneasy absence of people and activity. Loehn immediately
sought to follow, searching for a way to get out of New Orleans
as quickly as possible.
“I literally was waving
$100 in the air, and still could not get a ride out of the
city,” Loehn remembers. But leaving the city was nearly
impossible so close to the impending storm. Cab prices went
as high as $300, Loehn says, and were only available from
the outer perimeter of the city. Many roads were closed.
Loehn managed to make her way
to a bus headed for the New Orleans Superdome, but the bus
would not allow her to take her pet kitten. Unwilling to leave
her pet behind, she stepped back off the bus and returned
to her apartment.
At home with her roommate, Loehn
watched as the rain began to fall and the wind buffeted the
exterior. As electricity died and water service dried to a
halt, the roommates quickly became aware of the severity of
their situation. They packed what few items they could carry
and set out into the storm, looking for a ride, any ride,
out of town. After several hours, they managed to get a lift
with a man headed north.
Around midnight, they arrived
safely, if shaken, in Baton Rouge. The next day, Loehn traveled
to Lafayette, Louisiana, and met up with Broussard, a friend
at Loyola University.
For the next week, Loehn struggled
to ascertain the amount of damage to her apartment, as well
as the status of her job, and the situation at Loyola. She
learned that, though her school didn’t sustain any flooding,
the campus was severely damaged and would not open for the
Loehn’s mother informed
her that week about Smith’s offer for displaced students
of Hurricane Katrina to attend fall classes. After talking
with Smith administrators and arranging their enrollment here,
Loehn and Broussard set out for the 26-hour drive -- without
interruption -- to arrive at Smith the day before classes
“It all happened very quickly,
but Smith has been really great, helping us through this transition
and making this difficult time more manageable,” says
Loehn now from the comfort of a warm, dry Smith classroom.
She expects to return to Loyola
University for the spring semester.