Union in the News for December 16, 2005
Lessons from Katrina: Media join Union volunteers in New Orleans
By Tom Keyser - The Times Union
OFFERING RELIEF: Students in hazmat gear help clean out abandoned homes.
The 29 Union students who traveled to New Orleans over winter break to help victims of Hurricane Katrina had some unexpected company members of the local media.
Rebuilding efforts by the students were the subject of an extensive Sunday (Dec. 11) feature by Albany Times Union staff writer Tom Keyser that started on the front page and jumped to three inside pages.
Staff photographer Michael P. Farrell documented the trip with 11 striking images several of which showed students in goggles and other hazardous materials safety gear. A head shot of each student was also included.
"They expected to see recovery, but they found devastation. They also found insight into themselves," read the introduction to the articles, titled "Lessons in the Ruins."
The trip to New Orleans, Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, gave students including Laura Eyman '08 of Zachary, La. the chance to rebuild homes, schools and other facilities in a district where Eyman attended school.
The volunteers were accompanied by Director of Residence Life Todd Clark and Rev. Viki Brooks-McDonald, campus Protestant minister. They stayed in homes offered by Eyman's father, Carl Eyman, and a neighbor.
BLEAK LANDSCAPE: Union volunteers encountered massive devastation at every turn.
The Times Union story documented, in vivid detail, the landscape of downed trees, broken traffic signals, closed stores, abandoned vehicles and "dungeon-like homes" thick with mold, pervasive smells and debris.
The students aren't prepared for what they see. They expect New Orleans and surrounding communities to be well on their way to recovery. Instead they find homes still in ruins, homes residents haven't come back to, even though Katrina struck Aug. 29, and it's now nearly Christmas," Keyser wrote. "And it's not a few homes on isolated streets. It's all the homes in neighborhood after neighborhood, for miles and miles and miles."
The newspaper account also cites the indelible impact the trip made on the volunteers, like John Moore, a junior from Westport, Mass., now certain he wants to enter the Peace Corps after graduation, and senior Amy Seusing of Merrimack, N.H., who feels motivated to help needy residents of Schenectady.
A Union graduate who requested anonymity donated the majority of the $15,000 required to fund the trip. Other alumni donations, student fundraising efforts, and personal contributions made by students, their families and Interim President James Underwood also made the trip possible.
Reflecting on the experience, sophomore Corinne Simisky of Shrewsbury, Mass., said, I don't feel like I'm in America. I feel like I'm in the Third World."
For the full text of the Times Union story, please see: http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=428663&category=REGIONOTHER&BCCode=HOME&newsdate=12/11/2005
Note: The Chronicle will update the Union community on progress of students' documentation of their trip through journals, photos and a video.