Kristin Mancina is an English major who recently transferred from Louisiana State University. She had been at CSUN for one week when Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown and changed her life forever.
“All I was seeing (on TV) were people digging themselves out of their attics with axes, and I couldn’t get in contact with my family,” Mancina said. “It was at that point where I began to get angry.”
Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, leaving nearly 500,000 citizens homeless in New Orleans, and it is estimated that thousands are dead. The estimated damage for the Gulf Coast is in the tens of billions of dollars.
Amid the destruction witnessed in the past week, many students like Mancina have personally been affected by the hurricane.
Whether their hometowns are destroyed, or their families are homeless, Hurricane Katrina victims have been left with unanswered questions and fears about their futures.
Tahramy Dyson, who said he’s returning to CSUN this semester, was devastated when he was unable to reach his family for days. Virtually all of Dyson’s family was in New Orleans for a huge family reunion organized by his 78-year-old uncle, Roland Jenneford.
Jenneford lived in Los Angeles for 55 years, and said that although he has lived through some serious earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina was beyond frightening.
“In earthquakes, rumbles last (a few) minutes,” Jenneford said, “but this storm hit at midnight, and ended when the sun came up.”
With the hurricane up to 165 mph winds, Jenneford said he could hear the nails ripping out of the house foundation.
“I prayed, and asked God for peace,” Jenneford said, “and I was able to sleep through parts of the storm.”
Jenneford was able to get a plane out of New Orleans, something he calls a miracle.
“A rich man landed his airplane to pick up 31 employees, and he said whoever else could fit could go,” Jenneford said. “We didn’t know where we were going, but we didn’t care. We just wanted to get out of there.”
Although the immediate devastation of Katrina is ongoing, it is the fear and uncertainty of what the future holds that is affecting several New Orleans natives.
“It is so different when it is your home,” Mancina said. “I am helpless, and I’m here for an entire semester.”
Mancina is worried about what her family is going to do and how they are going to survive.
Mancina’s home has trees lodged in the master bedroom and garage and leaks everywhere, “but we are lucky, we have our lives,” she said.
Mancina’s parents are now unemployed. Her mother was an elementary school teacher and her father owned three businesses that employed 80 New Orleans residents.
She said she is afraid that New Orleans reconstruction will take up to one year, leaving her future uncertain.
Fortunately for Mancina and other college students from the Gulf Coast area, universities nationwide, including the CSU system, have said they will take additional students in and provide financial aid on a case-by-case basis.
Exchange students from the Katrina-ravaged states have been contacted by financial aid and are being offered immediate assistance, providing they were already receiving it from their home schools, said Martha Lopez, study abroad adviser at the office of Student Development and International Programs.
CSUN is also providing counseling services for students, which Lopez said has been very successful.
“We have been in touch with all our exchange students, and have made sure they are all okay, and that their families are okay,” Lopez said.
For now, Mancina continues to worry about the doubt in her and her family’s lives.
Her family is moving from relative to relative’s house, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Although they are out of the disease-infested waters, they have not necessarily reached safety.
“Baton Rouge is horrible,” Mancina said. “There is no gas, traffic is chaotic and there is crime everywhere.”
Mancina also expressed her frustration with the lack of speed with rescue efforts.
“I want to know how many people died because of the hurricane, and how many died during the aftermath,” she said.
Still, her family reminds her that she is lucky to be here at CSUN, continuing her education.
“I have some money saved. I can get by,” Mancina said. “I’ll try to visit my family for Thanksgiving,” but as far as the future goes, “we don’t know.”
Connie Llanos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.