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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?

A few days ago I shared my thoughts on Hurricane Katrina and the situation in New Orleans with my blog readers. Among other things, I expressed concern for our friend Anthony Gatt. Thanks to comments he posted on this blog, we heard that he's OK, even if a little shaken by the experience.

As the sadness of the horrible situation on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold, I'd like to share an email Anthony sent to the MaltaMedia News team yesterday evening. I am reproducing the text of his email exactly as he sent it not to show Anthony as a sloppy writer, but to preserve the angst of this young Maltese man in this unusual situation. His account is the only relevant Maltese perspective on this major disaster. There may be other Maltese people who experienced Katrina first hand, but so far we have neither heard from or of them.

The text is written partly as an eyewitness account, partly as a news report, and mostly as a personal account of someone overwhelmed by his current situation.

Information about Maltese student stuck in the US after hurricane Katrina...

I had prepared for this trip for two long months. Morning spent moving from one office to another and filling papers, talking to people and trying to get the most cost affective option possible.

Thursday August 25th...7.15am...MIA...I say bye to my parents and with tears in my eyes I board a plane that would take me to London with a mixture of sadness and expectation as this shoul have been the experience of a lifetime...

Arriving in the enormous Heathrow airport I waited fro a couple of hours to board the British Airways 10-hours flight that should have taken me to Miami.

Firts indication of what came ahead..."there is a trpoical storm shaping up, it shouldn't be too bad'said the captain as we were initiating our flight towards the US.

After hours of eating, reading, sleeping and watching tv we approached no...we didnt make it safely to miami...Katrina was shaping up to the KATRINA that we all know about now...turbulance was hitting from every corner and we had to abort the miami landing and opt for the airport of Orlando, Florida so as to have a safe landing. Better safe than otherwise...

Tired and confused I waited until some 60 mins later I was on my way to a hotel that BA had put us in until as safe journey back to miami could be completed. Arriving in Miami a day later, after having informed my parents with what had happend was quite sticky and dark as the Katrina hit city was out of power and full of the weather conditions related to such a phenomenon. Trees where still battling the winds and water was everywhere, the hotel I was to stay in can be appropriately described as ghostly with rooms illuminated only by special glow-in-the-dark sticks that were cautiously distributed by hotel staff to the subdued customers.

But still I was ready to take this as another small mishap that will not ruin all my plans. Saturday 27th flight from Miami to New Orleans (aiming to arrive in time for the fresher's week activities and be still on schedule.) But the TV set in the gate of my boarding said otherwise as in a press conference Louisiana politicians said that this would be very bad and for people to calm down and take the needed precautions...yes KATRINA was boosted by its movement towards the gulf of mexico rising form tropical storm to 3-4 category hurricane....and it was heading straight on towards the Louisiana state...focusing its fury on New Oleans where it was supposed to begin its apocalyptic activity as from Monday evening. Yes that New Orleans...the New Orleans which I had planned to explore and live, the city which wasso attracting with its culture of music and sounds, architecture and history, the same one that today has the ee's of the word upon it looming at its streets that today ate environs of destruction, despair and disaster!

I was so releived to hear the screeching sound of the plane's tyres hitting the asphalt on that sunny afternoon, and really excited to be here fianlly after all that anticipation...

the 30 minute cab ride from the airport to Tulane's campus showed me again that I was wrong. It lloked that my cab was the only vehicle moving towards NO with thousand of cars on the other side of the street batling their way out of the city as total evecuation was now imminent.

Arriving on campus, to my dormitory-to-be I found the unexpected. What at first seemed a long line of students trying to check-in in the building turned into being a group of confused students evacuating the campus.

yes, so that was it, leaving again, no settling down at all, I left my 40 kilo luaggage in someone's office and left with the whole of the Freshmen students to a 5-6 hour drive towards safer Missisipi wher the Jackson state University accepted to keep us for what where planned to be 'a couple of day', before'going backk to campus'.

sleeping on a gym floor with some other 600 students wasnt that bad as meeting people was so easy in such a situation...but the worse was still to come...

stuck to the tv following news, we had to stay confined to the gym on Monday and Tuesday as Katrina's wirling winds had reached Missisipi too.

With food barely accessible as the power went off on Tuesday and with candys and other crap food to live on, contaminated water everywhere and no light that thay was quite bad...but we all survived with the positivness of youth saving us from all the negativity one could have focused on. joking, hanging around and playing a number of board games was our routine for some 4days back at Jackson State. Though food was cooked for us for the first time in 2 days on Tuesday night we still had no power...

we couldnt stay longer....

Buses took us to differnt towns and some better place from where we could make plans for returning home...the scnes of devastation back at New Orleans hit us hard when we arrive in Dallas, Texas early on Wednesday morning. There was nothing one could do than return home and wait for further news from Tulane...

Fortunately the Tulane Campus was not severly hit but the situation in the city made the Tulane President officially cancel the fall semester...yes the only semester that I was to attend at Tulane...

So now I m here still at SMU, waiting to take a decision on either returning home back to Malta or else persever in trying to make the best out of this situation and trying to enroll in some other University as other Tulane students have been doing as the support help and assistance form everyone here back in the US is awesome and unbeleivable!

this is it, hours of planning and expectations pratically blown away by mere bad luck and bad timing... but nonetheless, no matter how will my US experience end up I will remeber this as a story of friendship courage and unity as I will persevere harder to obtain what I always wanted, a semester of enriching experience intended to make me stronger and more mature.

Anthony David Gatt

Incidentally, Anthony's story has also appeared on a number of American news sources:

  • The Dallas Morning News - from Texas
  • San Jose Mercury News - running an Associated Press report
  • The Shreveport Times - NW Louisiana's Leading Online News Source

  • Anonymous Anthony D. Gatt said...





    5:48 PM, September 07, 2005

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