I am relieved to tell you that our remaining on-campus students are all safe, and as far we know, so is every other member of our community. As it has for a century, our campus held up well, with only minor damage.
Our hearts break for those more squarely in the path of this terrible storm, including many members of our Loyola community. Please pray for them, and better yet, donate to causes on the ground if you are able. Catholic Charities in Houma, for example, will be giving immediate support to the hardest hit. I know that when we come back together, Loyola students will rally to find creative ways to help our neighbors, as they always do.
We have cancelled classes this week so that our community can assess damage and recover. Right now, I see neighbors outside busily clearing the debris from trees from the streets, taping up broken windows and checking on each other. The city took a wallop, primarily from wind damage, and there is significant damage to the power grid.
This was a historic storm – one we will all tell our grandkids about. But for New Orleans, this was not a Katrina. (And I say that as a veteran of Katrina.) It may take several weeks to make repairs to ok infrastructure and get up and running again. But once we get through this grueling period, the city will be fine.
We have been making all sorts of plans in the alternative while we wait for word from the utility companies about how long it will take to restore power and internet to the city. They are quickly making those assessments now and we should know more tomorrow. In the meantime, we continue to shelter in place. Please, no visitors or returning to campus.
If the interruption is short, less than two weeks, we can go on pause, get creative with the academic calendar and make up the time. If it stretches a bit longer, we have two choices – either to push the fall semester into the normal “January term,” or hopefully, to transition to virtual learning for a week or two. The tricky part is to get everyone to a place where they have internet in order to teach or learn. We will be in constant touch.
Students who stayed with us on campus – residence life will be speaking to each of you individually to handle the logistics of getting you off campus to somewhere more comfortable (though no one is supposed to travel right now as emergency crews operate). We are renting buses, to go tomorrow and Wednesday, that will stop at the airports in Biloxi/Gulfport and Mobile, giving you maximum flexibility on flights. Don’t make flight arrangements yet, but you can start looking at availability. Spring Hill College, bless them, will be able to house at least a hundred students who cannot make it home, particularly our international students. Please let residence life know your plans so we can solve the logistics.
For those of you who evacuated, it is a good idea to remain where there is power. I am hoping many of you are safely away, with an unexpected break. (Perhaps reading ahead in your assignments?) If you are able, this is a good time to invite a Loyola friend to come stay – someone whose family doesn’t have utilities right now. We are hurriedly exploring possibilities for housing for those who truly have no other options, but it won’t be within our power to solve that problem for all of the 5,000 people in our community.
The two things I hate most in the world are uncertainty and being away from New Orleans. But this will be brief, and we will get through it.
I want to thank all of you for your resilience and your courage this week. The hard part of going to college or graduate school used to center on anxiety over exams, not global pandemics, hurricanes, looming fires or apocalyptic times. I worry about all of you, but I am also so proud of how strong you have become.
Let’s take a moment to pray, remembering that God does not send the storms, nor spare us because we are any better than those less fortunate. God creates each of us with the capacity to rise to the occasion. We pray for the courage to bravely face whatever may come. We pray for the grace to help those in need. We pray for patience. And I personally also pray for a good night’s sleep in air conditioning very soon.
Loyola, let’s remind the world who we are.