Campus reacts to hurricane’s effects in Gulf

Nate Billings

Anxiety stretched beyond the reaches of Hurricane Katrina to the hearts of students and faculty at Missouri Southern as the storm reached the southern shores of the United States.

Dave Slatton, junior mass communications major, had family members in Gulf Port, Miss., one of the towns on the edge of the hurricane’s front.

Slatton’s son, Cody, and his wife had just gotten married and were living on base housing while Cody was deployed for the Navy.

“I was afraid something had happened,” Slatton said.

However, Slatton’s daughter-in-law had driven out of the danger area before the storm hit.

“She packed up and headed out,” Slatton said. “She took some clothes, wedding pictures and some papers. They lost everything.”

He said they would not be able to return to the house for 30 days.

This will give Cody a chance to come home since he was working in Okinawa, Japan during the time of the storm.

“The Navy ships are going to send comfort and aide,” Slatton said. “But, they always take care of the civilians first.”

Slatton said the hurricane could have been worse on his son and daughter-in-law.

“They were fully insured,” Slatton said. “Cody told her not to buy the insurance, but she went ahead and did so. He said, ‘I’m so glad she didn’t listen to me.'”

After the hurricane hit, Slatton did not have any communication with them for three days.

“I just knew it was going to be bad for everyone,” he said. “I count my blessings that my son wasn’t there and his wife had gone.”

Others on campus felt the same anxiety as Slatton felt during that time.

Dr. Cheryl Cifelli, assistant director of bands and assistant professor of woodwinds, took her position at Southern just over a month ago. She had left Mississippi and many people there and waited for two weeks for any word after the storm.

“I found out just like everyone else,” she said.

Cifelli said she was watching television when a report came on about a town just a few miles from where a couple of her friends lived. The town had been washed away.

“It was totally not there,” she said.

However, as the phone services were replaced, a phone call and an e-mail relieved her worries. Her friends were safe.

“I was mainly relieved,” Cifelli said. “I felt bad for them.”

Several of Cifelli’s friends were teachers.

“All those teachers had nowhere to go,” she said.

The schools which they taught in were completely gone, and the students had left the area, so the jobs were likely to be cut.

“They are professional people who have been made to rely on others,” Cifelli said.

Cifelli’s friends sent her pictures of the area. A church she sang in during her years in Mississippi had been completely washed out except for the bells beside the front door.

“The people are very open,” she said. “They were very helpful. They could have been your neighbors.”

Cifelli is working on setting up a benefit concert for the victims of Katrina.

The concert will be later this month, and she hopes the concert will benefit the victims early enough so people will not forget what happened if the concert were to be at a later day.

“They will still care, but they forget,” she said.

Some students at Southern, though some may not have known anyone in the affected areas, still reacted to the situation.

“I thought it was awful,” said Julie Moller, sophomore undecided major. “It’s probably really hard on them (the victims). I hope more gets done sooner.”

Others agree with this.

“It was a real shock,” said Erica Thomas, junior psychology major. “America thinks we’re bullet-proof, but we’re not.”

However, there are other students who do have relatives and friends around the affected areas.

“Our brothers with our seminary had some flooding in their house, but they made it out okay,” said Nghia Nguyen, freshman undecided major.

Nguyen had also had relatives near New Orleans who made it out in time. He said he hoped the best for everyone affected by Katrina.

“We’re praying that everyone gets out safely,” he said. “We did a prayer service. God looks down on us and takes care of us.”