Adrienne Berra left everything where it was in her Loyola University apartment in New Orleans when she evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. She knew the drill and expected to return soon.
So with two pairs of jeans, a T-shirt, a pair of gym shorts and a pair of tennis shoes, Berra went home to St. Louis.
Now, she is spending her sophomore year at MU — and she won’t go back.
Berra is among about two dozen students from the South, so far, who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and today are part of the fabric of college life in Columbia.
Barbara Rupp, director of admissions at MU, said all but three of the students are undergraduates. More than half are full time. Eight of the nine students interviewed for this story are from Missouri or Illinois; the ninth is from Louisiana.
Many of these students had clothes and other belongings in storage in New Orleans, and they are not sure of the condition of their things.
Tulane senior Chryssi Mikus had a semester’s worth of clothes in her car. Her father drove it to New Orleans before the start of school, and Mikus was supposed to fly there to join him.
But when they heard about the hurricane, she canceled her flight and her father flew home before the hurricane hit. Mikus’ car, full of her clothes, was lost to the floodwaters.
Most of the displaced students now at MU were not in the South when the storm hit. However, senior Katy Walker was on her way to Tulane but stopped at her sister’s apartment in Hattiesburg, Miss., after hearing the school was evacuated. They ended up weathering the storm in the apartment, with 100-mph winds roaring outside.
Tulane junior Bob Murrell, a New Orleans native, was in Louisiana during the hurricane, but he slept through it. “I stayed at a friend’s house and when I went to bed about midnight or 1 a.m. Sunday night (Aug. 28) it was drizzling outside,” he said. “It was sunny and clear when I woke up on Monday morning, and I didn’t know anything had happened until I looked outside and saw the damage.”
The students and their families began contacting MU between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, after they knew classes had been canceled for the semester at their schools, to see if it would be possible for them to enroll in classes.
Many chose MU because they have friends from high school attending the University, and they thought that would make the transition easier. Some of the students had applied to MU in high school, so their applications were already on file.
They said the administration was helpful, and many of the students were able to start classes on Sept. 6, after the Labor Day holiday.
MU has waived tuition for the semester for all of the students that have enrolled from Gulf Coast schools, Rupp said.
University Bookstore is giving them the opportunity to buy books with consumables, such as CD’s or workbooks, at a discounted price, said Michelle Froese, public relations manager for the bookstore. Books without consumables can be taken out on loan and returned at the end of the semester, Froese said.
MU will try to offer four or five eight-week accelerated courses that start in October for students from Gulf Coast schools as well as any other MU student who is interested, Rupp said. Students from Gulf Coast schools will have first pick of these classes, Rupp said.
Overall, the students said that although the MU campus is much larger than what they are used to and is somewhat overwhelming, everyone has been nice and helpful. But Murrell, who had never been to Missouri, said the state is dull and not like the urban lifestyle he is used to.
Berra was the only student interviewed for this story who already knows she won’t return to New Orleans and her Loyola apartment. Most of her friends aren’t going back, she said, and the city won’t be the same — she said she doesn’t want to remember it like that.
Displaced students share memorable moments at MU
What was your most memorable moment at MU so far?
Adrienne Berra, sophomore, Loyola: On the first day of her social work class, Berra’s teacher asked her to share a bit about the hurricane. After class, a classmate came up to her almost crying, and gave Berra her phone number and told her to call her if she needed to talk. “It was the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Berra said.
Bob Murrell, junior, Tulane: Passing by a huge abortion protest in speaker’s circle while walking around campus lost and trying to get to class.
Michelle Tanner, junior, Tulane: Walking into her dorm room for the first time, because it was a lot smaller than she expected it to be. “I thought, I’m living in a closet,” she said.
Jorie Kirschbaum, sophomore, Tulane: Knocking on the door to her dorm room, introducing herself to her roommate, and having to explain to her roommate, who thought she had a single room, that she now has a roommate.
Sean Milford, freshman, Tulane: Getting to see all of his friends from high school and seeing the student recreational center. “It’s really nice,” he said.
Chryssi Mikus, senior, Tulane: Walking into her sorority house, Kappa Alpha Theta. Everyone there made her feel welcome.