Subject: My Hurricane Story -- New Orleans Public School teacher mourns possible loss of students
Story: New Orleans Inner City School Teacher mourns possible loss of students (Putting a face on a hurricane victim)
I had to leave my students behind.
Much of inner city New Orleans is filled with indigent or low-income families with no transportation. These people didn’t stay in the city, for the most part, because they were “attached” to their homes. Most have little to attach to and no money or means to leave. Instead, many either rent one side of a shotgun double house or “stay” in one of the city’s five huge housing projects. And that’s where I had to leave my students: on the second floor, in their neighbor’s apartment in the Lafitte Housing Project.
Dwight and Dwan, twin brothers who just turned 17 years old, first became my students at one of the lowest performing middle schools two years ago. Their individual stories are sad before Hurricane Katrina and maybe too intensely painful for the average parent or reader. But their reality was to call Children Services themselves last Friday when they came home to find their circumstances unlivable, once again. That day, they asked if they could live with me, but it wasn’t possible Friday. We agreed to meet on Sunday and plan their future. Hurricane Katrina made all that impossible when I evacuated Saturday night.
We spoke several times trying to coordinate how to drop-off food for the storm but officials issued a curfew by 7p.m.on Saturday night making that impossible. I asked their neighbor to take them to the Superdome, but she said it was a bad experience two years earlier when they evacuated for a tropical storm and that they trusted God.
We spoke at 4:00 a.m. and the storm hit Monday morning at 5:00 a.m. We spoke a few hours later and I haven’t been able to reach them since. From a hotel room in Houston, I sit tortured in from of the TV hoping to see a shot of their building or a face. The news just reported that the Orleans Parish School System would be closed for the next two to three months. What I want to know is… will my students be alive.