How to Teach during a Tragegy

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There was nothing about leaving the school where I taught in New Orleans on Friday afternoon, August 27, 2005, that led me to believe I wouldn’t see most of my colleagues and students ever again. “Bye, see you Monday!” I called out to them. On the drive home, I heard weather reports about a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and thought to myself, “It probably won’t affect New Orleans.” By Saturday, forecasters said the possibility of the storm making landfall near New Orleans had increased, but I still wasn’t alarmed; my family and I were more concerned about attending a Saints preseason football game in the Superdome along with thousands of other New Orleanians that night. The predictions for the hurricane hitting New Orleans became more ominous on Sunday, causing the mayor of our city to order a mandatory evacuation for all residents. My family reluctantly evacuated the city as we had done so many times before for other hurricanes, none of which had been devastating. Much like when I left school on Friday, there was nothing about leaving New Orleans that Sunday that led me to think I would never see my home again.

It became clear by Monday that New Orleans would suffer a near-direct hit by a hugely intensified Hurricane Katrina. Although our city largely withstood the fierce winds and rains brought by the Category 5 storm, it ultimately fell to the flooding that resulted when an aging levee system breached, resulting in 80% of the city being underwater, up to 20

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