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Students affected by Hurricane Laura try to stay positive after destruction

SGA collecting items through Sept. 16 on campus

By Cheryl Daniel, Editor-in-chief
On September 11, 2020

Renee Simien's house after Hurricane Laura swept through Lake Charles.
Chad Fuselier| Courtbouillion

NEW ORLEANS (September 11, 2020) – Two students – among at least four at Dillard from Lake Charles area, according to Admissions – are keeping hope alive as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that hit the Louisiana coast two weeks ago.

Juniors Renee Simien and Trinity Slaughter, a political science major and criminal justice major, respectively, are without homes because of the Aug. 27 hurricane that devastated their hometown of Lake Charles. Slaughter, eight months’ pregnant, has relocated with her family to the Greater Houston area, while Simien returned to her apartment in New Orleans.

Hurricane Laura was the first major storm of the season and is the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the state based on maximum sustained winds, surpassing hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, according to officials. It killed 36 people in the nation – 71 overall – and caused $8.7 billion in insured damage in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas alone, according to reports.

Damage in Lake Charles requires major infrastructure repair, including to power stations and lines and repairs to the local water system.

The Student Government Association – one of several organizations seeking donations to help – has a hurricane relief box drive under way through next Wednesday, Sept. 16. You may donate in boxes in residence halls, Kearny Dining Hall and the Student Union. Preferred donated items are bottle water and non-perishable food items.

Simien said many Louisiana residents don’t initially worry when there is a hurricane warning.

“I have ridden out a whole bunch of hurricanes. We don’t get worried until they hit a Category 3 or 4.” said Simien.

When the storm hit landfall, Simien evacuated with her family to Churchpoint. Now she’s back in New Orleans, but her home is, for all practical purposes, gone.

“I’m worried as a college student because I don’t have a home to come back to. I don’t have anything left in Lake Charles; everything was demolished.” said Simien.

Meanwhile, Slaughter said it is hard to balance being a virtual student while finding a place to stay in Houston.

“We have been jumping from hotel to hotel since the hurricane hit.” Slaughter said.

Slaughter said her family has been in three hotels since the storm. The Federal Emergency Agency, or FEMA, provided vouchers for affected families, but Slaughter said the vouchers are hard to retrieve and use.

“Only certain hotels accept vouchers, and a lot of people are misusing them. They are taking away from families like myself who really need them,” she said.

Both Simien and Slaughter are trying to stay positive despite the stresses of dealing with loss of home amid a pandemic.

Simien said, “Everything happens for a reason. I am a first-generation college student. I want to set an example for my siblings. I have to push through this for them.”

Simien is encouraging students and peers to be aware of what is happening in the world. She said she never would have imagined this could have happened to her. She added she would like the media to cover more of the aftermath.

“This was a record-breaking storm, and no one is talking about it. I just lost everything, and my friends didn’t even know. My city needs help,” said Simien

Other efforts towards hurricane relief include:

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