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Why We Are Here

January 18, 2006

Nick Marinello
Michael DeMocker


Charles Allen III

Senior program coordinator
Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research

Charles Allen's home was extensively damaged and will require much work to be made livable. After five weeks in Alabama, he returned to New Orleans, staying at the home of John McLachlan, director of the Center for Bio-environmental Research, until he found an apartment.

"Our CBR team was in contact with each other within a few weeks of Katrina and started working on what the post-Katrina world would look like, writing grants and supporting each other.... We recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support a project called the Katrina Environmental Research and Restoration Network. This project involves bringing together a network of researchers, educators, public policy experts, community folks, among many others, to provide important and useful information as we embark on the immense recovery phase of our lives in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.... I feel relatively good about my return and that of others. This is my lifelong home and I feel passionately about the city's needs and current plight.... The environment is one of the most important issues for the city and region, and Tulane has an opportunity to be one of the real leaders in this area for the whole world. We find ourselves in the middle of the most extreme environmental laboratory you can imagine.... I believe there is opportunity for all to show the world how you rebound and recover from disasters. There are so many lessons to be learned and shared with all."

Angelo Denisi

Dean, A. B. Freeman School of Business

The B-School's brand-new dean, Angelo Denisi, and his wife, Adrienne Colella, associate professor of business, arrived in New Orleans in June, only two months before Hurricane Katrina's arrival.

"We made out just fine. We lost roof tiles, a tree came down, we needed a new refrigerator. We were very lucky.... We first went to Houston for a week and then San Antonio for five weeks. I spent most of my time answering e-mails about the Freeman School. We were inundated with questions about courses and credits, status of faculty.... The truth is, I don't know if I know how to get to Lakeview, but I've been to New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward and some of it looks like another planet. It is such a contrast to Uptown life that is getting back to where it was before Katrina. And everyone is talking about making a comeback; there is a feeling of camaraderie..... For the most part it will be business as usual for the school. We have revised the MBA program to incorporate several practicums of community development and rebuilding and are doing a similar thing for the undergraduates who will be required to take a community-service related course. Plus, we are encouraging our students to pursue internships in New Orleans where they can make a difference." Tulanians

William Postell Jr.

Director of the medical center library

A native New Orleanian, Bill Postell lost his Uptown home to floodwater.

"My neighborhood was on the other side of Claiborne from Ursuline Academy. It had great ambiance and spirit, with families of all ages and circumstances. But it was destroyed by seven feet of water. When I got back, all was desolation and silence. I'm fortunate to have resources; I was insured and able to plunder my retirement. So I bought a house over by Tchoupitoulas, well above sea level.... The medical library is fine. It's on the second floor of the Hutchinson Building and escaped the flood. Most medical literature is online anyway, so with communications up, we can still serve our students and faculty.... I couldn't be more enthusiastic about coming back. I've been at Tulane for 31 years and have had a love affair with New Orleans since I was a kid. My boyhood home was over by Napoleon Avenue, and on fall Saturdays I could hear the crowd roaring in Tulane Stadium. When I was old enough to sell Cokes at Tulane football games, I made a small fortune from all the tips from customers. I went to Jesuit High School in the '60s and was often in on the hiring of bands for school dances. Favorites were Deacon John and the Ivories, the Neville Brothers and Irma Thomas.... I've traveled around the country and abroad a lot; New Orleans is not an American city. All Orleanians are off center, some a little, some a lot. It's that wholesale eccentricity that makes our people so irresistible..... I had to come back to New Orleans; my identity is inseparable from it. I want to help rebuild it. Besides, try as we might, Orleanians rarely fit in anywhere else."

Nancy Mock

Associate professor of international health
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Nancy Mock, an expert in disaster management, evacuated first to Texas, then Florida. She returned to New Orleans as soon as Mayor Ray Nagin opened the city, coordinating students to gather information about the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the city and its people.

"I began to contact students through a forum. We have started an initiative called RALLY: Recovery Action Learning Laboratory. We are helping in the recovery of the Treme district, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the city, by organizing a food pantry and wraparound community development. This activity was informed by initial surveys of the neighborhood and its businesses. We also supported the city's effort to estimate the population of New Orleans in October and November and will continue to do so into the spring. By providing good, balanced information we could help guide the recovery effort...The tragedy of Katrina should not be repeated; Tulane has an experiential learning opportunity to contribute to the global knowledge base of disasters and the recovery from them. We should be compelled to learn what we can and make sure it is well-documented and disseminated. We are obliged to do this so that the mistakes that happened in the recovery effort here do not happen again.... We can rebuild a New Orleans that is better than the city hit by Katrina. The news media exposed the problems here of urban structural poverty and we now have a chance to fix that. Societal learning is part of our business. Our work here is not only for ourselves or our city but for other cities that will experience future disasters. We should be learning in our backyard."


Faye Grimsley

Assistant professor of environmental health sciences
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Faye Grimsley's home is located in the Lakeview area of New Orleans, not far from where the London Avenue Canal was breached.

"I returned to the city on Oct. 18, to find that my home sustained major damage from the floodwaters.... While away, I conducted as much business as possible, but it was a challenge since I evacuated to my hometown in Shorterville, Ala., a small town in rural southeast Alabama that has limited access to computers and Internet service.... My research interests include indoor air quality, bacteria, mold and the toxins they produce, and exposure assessment, so the storm and its aftermath will actually enhance my research.... Returning to the city has been a homecoming of mixed emotions. It has been devastating to see so many homes in ruin, but at the same time it has been rewarding to work with local and state agencies in trying to rebuild the city.... From a disaster-management point of view, Tulane researchers and New Orleans officials will be in a position to provide others with firsthand knowledge gained from actual experiences in dealing with a catastrophic event. Tulane also can serve as a tremendous resource for the city's rebuilding efforts; I believe the university's role will be critical since we are here, on the scene. We will have daily interaction with community members and leaders who are making decisions about moving the city forward."

Aaron Rubens

Tulane Junior

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Aaron Rubens, along with friends and fellow Tulane undergrads Adam Hawf, Kevin Lander and Stephen Richer, created the New Orleans Hurricane Fund to help rebuild New Orleans ( We asked Rubens to speak on behalf of the group.

"After Katrina, some of us initially thought we would simply raise money for the Red Cross, but we decided that because of our unique position as residents of New Orleans and students of Tulane University, we would try and start something more personal. Though we've raised about $70,000, we all believe that the most valuable resource we have for an effective, long-term rebuilding effort is the volunteer workforce Tulane University has to offer from its students...Our plan has three parts -- rescue, relief and rebuild. Early on, we helped to sponsor TEMS (Tulane Emergency Medical Service) as it assisted with the initial evacuation efforts. We also have sponsored three families whose homes were severely damaged by the storm. Our services have ranged from contacting FEMA on one family's behalf, to purchasing appliances, furniture, paying utility bills, etc. Our long-term efforts to rebuild focus on a program to bring access to technology and technology education to returning citizens of New Orleans who did not have it prior to the hurricane.... We have received more than 100 volunteer forms from Tulane students who want to get involved with our efforts. That is along with dozens of students from other institutions who have assisted in fundraising efforts. I see service becoming a major focus of Tulane, rather than a periphery ideal. Also, Tulane will have a much stronger working relationship with the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) of New Orleans, which will make our service efforts far more effective."

Winter 2006

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000