The students came from Tulane, Xavier, Loyola, Dillard. Some came with the clothes on their backs and several days’ worth of changes. They left behind their laptops and computers, clothes, televisions, stereos, textbooks, cars, and in some instances, friends. Some of the students, especially first-years, were with parents from the Dallas area. One father broke down in tears when he realized his child’s education could continue at SMU. Some students were on their own. Most were subdued, still in shell shock, unbelieving that their lives had been so turned upside down. But every one expressed gratitude that SMU offered calm this week in the midst of the storm aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here are their stories.
“I was watching the news on Monday, and I saw my flooded apartment building on television. I love New Orleans, and it hurts so much to watch what’s happening. SMU was the first place I looked for the classes I would need to get…”
“We evacuated to Dallas. We didn’t know where to go. It’s been pretty hectic, especially watching TV. Our city is like a war zone. I left everything behind…”
“We are so appreciative of SMU for doing this. You saw a need and filled it without hesitating or worrying about every last thing that might happen down the road. It truly was a great thing to do.”
Marie Guevara, sophomore communications major at Loyola
“I left on Saturday. I was there when Ivan came through last year, and it was like nothing in New Orleans, so I wasn’t sure I’d need to leave, but I came home to Plano just to be safe. I was watching the news on Monday, and I saw my flooded apartment building on television. I love New Orleans, and it hurts so much to watch what’s happening. SMU was the first place I looked for the classes I would need to get, because I knew you’d have the communications courses I needed and that the program was strong.”
Errol Rubello, father of Donnia Rebello
“My daughter Donnia is a math and biological sciences major at Tulane. We had just gone to register her for her first year when we had to leave. We are so appreciative of SMU for doing this. You saw a need and filled it without hesitating or worrying about every last thing that might happen down the road. It truly was a great thing to do.”
Andrew Bernd, a senior finance major at Tulane, and his sister, Jennifer, a Tulane freshman, have enrolled at SMU. They are from New Orleans.
“We evacuated to Dallas. We didn’t know where to go. It’s been pretty hectic, especially watching TV. Our city is like a war zone. I left everything behind.”
Mother of Sheree Guymont
“My daughter is a third-year student at Xavier. Sheree was wondering at first if she should evacuate, because they get these weather threats all the time, but I insisted. The airport was already closed, so she hitched a ride with a friend to a family home in Mississippi, where a reunion was taking place. SMU was the first place we looked when it became clear that the semester at Xavier would be late starting or perhaps not starting at all. It’s been a really smooth process, and we’re so grateful for all that the University has done.”
Jocelyn Bunton of Cedar Hill, a freshman at Xavier, and her mother Chanda Moss were talking to Charles Harper of the Bursar’s office. Jocelyn had attended summer school at Xavier and was evacuated then for Hurricane Dennis. She had been at Xavier for two weeks – one for freshman orientation and another for a week of class. She left on Saturday and left everything behind in her first-floor dorm room. The school is located of I-10 near the Superdome. “I’m still in shock that I won’t be going back there,” she said. “But I’m happy to be here and not there. I had friends who were rescued by boats only yesterday and taken to Grambling. They were still inside the school in various buildings.”
Travis Tillotson of New Jersey attends Tulane. SMU had been one of his younger brother’s choices, so they drove to Dallas after evacuating. “I left everything behind in the attic of the house where I lived. Hopefully the damage isn’t too bad. I’m not going to be able to get my stuff for months. Now that I’m here I’m a little happier. You guys have been great.”
Bethany Williams of Dallas and Lindsay Horton of Plano, both Tulane sophomores, said they were very glad SMU let them enroll.
“The school has been so generous. SMU is not making us pay full tuition, and we got all the classes we asked for.”
Cecilia Freeney of Dallas, a senior biology/pre-med major at Xavier, had only 11 hours left to graduate. She was going to graduate in December. She was thinking about enrolling at SMU. She had already bought a $180 book.
“It would be worse if we lived in New Orleans; we would have no where to go.”
Elizabeth Koerber, a junior at Tulane from New Orleans, fled to Dallas with her family who has relatives in Dallas. Her mother is a professor of law at Tulane. They packed for only a two-day evacuation. Her home is on a high ground so it may be safe.
“I know it’s not under water. I can’t believe how kind and generous SMU has been, especially for New Orleans students at Tulane.”
Brandon Carter, a freshman from DeSoto attending Dillard, had been at Dillard for two weeks when he had to evacuate. The school took student to Centenary College in Shreveport, LA, and then he got on the bus and came back to Dallas. He brought with him a laptop and three changes of clothes. He’s heard that Dillard is covered by 5-8 feet of water. What was on his mind was first, to get enrolled in school, and then he was worried about his “stuff” that he left behind.
Carter said, "They are telling us insurance should cover it, but who knows when that will happen. It’s a blessing to have a home to come to. Everybody I know who’s still in Louisiana I can’t call.” His mom Karen said “we’re just glad he was able to get out. We’re worried now where he is going to go to school.”
Barrie Glasscock –Senior Assistant Director of Admission.
“Right now, we have 74 students in the system at some point. We received hundreds of calls yesterday from students and parents asking to enroll for the semester, and it’s gratifying to provide them with this one thing to help normalize a little – anything to help them when they’ve been through so much. We don’t know what to expect for the next few days, but we’re ready to do anything we can.”
Registrar John Hall said that in the two days he observed the enrollment process, people were waiting for hours, but there “never was a cross word or raised voice, but a lot of “thanks for what SMU is trying to do.”
Laura Delrio from Enrollment Services said students and parents were told before enrolling that SMU was not charging them tuition for the fall 2005 semester. The University is also helping them with books, meal tickets and parking decals. “It helps relieve the tension before they enroll.”
English Professor Bonnie Wheeler was talking to students and their parents, suggesting possible courses they could take if there were still room in the courses. She was talking to Ross Smeltzer and his mom, Carol, of Canton, Texas. He was at Loyola University one day. He left everything: his computer, his clothes. The school is located in the Garden District, across the street from Tulane. He’s a freshman history major. “Everything has been so overwhelming for three days.” Carol: “Everything has been so positive at SMU. The people have all been so helpful. We’re just hoping that it all works out. SMU is one of the first schools he looked at when he was young; this feels like we’ve come full circle.”