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Ten years later: Miami remembers Katrina victims

By Bonnie Meibers, Senior Staff Writer

On August 27, 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf of Mexico tearing apart the Southeastern U.S. and leaving many without homes. Today, many of those people are still displaced. This Level 5 storm was one of the deadliest hurricanes in the country's history.

Miami, along with several hundred other universities nationwide, welcomed students from Tulane University when the flooding from Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana 10 years ago last week.

The typical admission process was bypassed for these students and they were accepted promptly. The Miami Report said Miami also waived tuition for the Tulane transfer students.

Miami accepted 30 students in total from Tulane, according to Tulane University's website.

"Miami is helping the displaced students settle into courses and residence halls," said John Skillings, Miami's vice-provost at the time. "Faculty and staff are being asked to provide assistance to ease their transition."

Skillings was vice-provost 10 years ago and oversaw curricular and instructional affairs for the university.

After Katrina decimated New Orleans and the surrounding areas, the Miami community rallied together to raise money to aid those affected.

Hays Cummins, a Miami professor and native of New Orleans, led several service trips to New Orleans and Lafitte, Louisiana. The group of about 20 students was made up of Harrison Scholars and students from the Western Program. Miami funded transportation for these trips, he said.

The first of four trips to Louisiana involved completely gutting homes, which meant removing everything from inside the home to the road outside. This made it possible for the homes to be rehabilitated.

"A year after that first trip we helped build homes," Cummins said. "That trip was a lot more hopeful than gutting them."

The owners of the homes often lived in trailers nearby. Cummins said they were very appreciative of the Miami students' service to people like themselves who had lost everything.

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"Entire neighborhoods were underwater," Cummins said. "You couldn't help but think of the people that lived there and their life story after seeing all their belongings in the street."

Senior Kate Friedler, also a New Orleans native, was in the sixth grade when Hurricane Katrina struck.

To the people of New Orleans, hurricanes are a regular occurrence, Friedler said. "Hurricane days" are built into the school year, similar to how snow days are built into the school year in the Midwest.

Her home was relatively unscathed, as the flooding had stopped six blocks away from where she and her family live, but Friedler knows many people who weren't so fortunate.

"One of my friend's dad died," she said. "A lot of people who stayed back to rescue others didn't make it."

The outpouring of help from Miami and other schools across the country is something that Friedler said gives her goose bumps.

"It makes me happy that they were so willing to help," Friedler said.

Among other efforts to help the victims of Katrina were "Miami Art Responds to Katrina" (MARK). This group collected household items and toiletries for a Baton Rouge church that was housing several hundred evacuees. MARK also supported art students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, according to The Miami Report.

Another project Miami undertook was a Katrina Care Concert in September 2005. All ticket profits for this event went toward aiding victims of Hurricane Katrina. Miami's Greek community also put on a concert to benefit those affected by Hurricane Katrina in Oxford's Uptown Park that same month.

Miami's branch campuses also lent a helping hand to victims of Katrina. The Middletown campus collected children's toys, supplies for pets and encouragement cards. The Hamilton campus collected funds and toiletries.

Miami raised over $10,000 along with supplies for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Tulane University's President Michael Fitts thanked President Hodge and Miami last week for its kindness and recognized all the universities that took in transfer students to support the Louisiana school.