By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 12, 2005
Two weeks ago, Alan Jovivett woke up in his New Orleans apartment without power.
Yesterday, the 57-year-old longshoreman sat in a wheelchair at the Tucson Convention Center preparing to relocate to temporary housing as the center closed its operations.
Jovivett, along with his wife, Fanta, were among the last of the 85 hurricane evacuees to leave the TCC because Jovivett suffered from a knee injury in the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina.
Since Wednesday, the center has housed evacuees, like Jovivett, displaced by the storm. By yesterday afternoon, all of the evacuees staying in the center had found temporary shelter and jobs in the community, said Patti Woodcock, community relations manager for Pima County Health Department.
But even though Jovivett now has hot meals and clean sheets, the memories of hunger and flooded, trash-strewn city streets still remain. He also remembers his small community rallying to survive as floodwaters spilled into his apartment.
"That created a bond between our apartment building," he said. "We had about 25 people and trust me, this is no heroic act or something, this is just survival."
He and a group of about two dozen other people from his apartment building waited for nine days in the flooded area before being rescued.
For the next few days, Jovivett said they survived by eating crackers and whatever else hadn't spoiled. By the fourth day of flooding, Jovivett and some others from the apartment complex went through the water to the grocery store to get food.
"What they were calling looters wasn't looters," he said. "They became survivors. Even the police and the Coast Guard went into Wal-Mart to get the necessary things."
The first sign of rescue to his area didn't come until the fourth day, when two men arrived by boat to drop off food and supplies.
"It took people from Washington state to come all the way down here to save us," Jovivett said.
The next day, an Army helicopter dropped the first hot meal Jovivett and his companions had eaten in days, military MREs (meals ready to eat), which are self-contained dinners.
The helicopters began ferrying people out, but Jovivett said he and his wife stayed to make sure an older man in his apartment complex got out safely.
By Tuesday morning, the ninth day of being stranded, Jovivett and the last of the people still at his apartment complex were rescued and rushed to Louis Armstrong airport and put on a plane.
He and the others did not know the plane was headed for Tucson until they were in the air. They were all glad to be going somewhere.
"They celebrated when the plane lifted off, and they rejoiced when the plane hit the ground," he said.
Once the plane landed in Tucson, Jovivett and the rest of the evacuees were sent to the convention center until they could find more permanent housing. The center shut down operations completely last night at 5.
Of the approximately 1,800 people who volunteered for the effort, the Red Cross and the Pima County Health Department were only able to use about half of the volunteers, said Woodcock.
"Tucson really stepped up," Woodcock said.
Despite the center closing its doors, two UA greek organizations have joined forces to rally up the participation of all greek chapters on campus in a supply-drive and donation effort for Hurricane Katrina victims.
The Alpha Phi and Kappa Sigma chapters will be collecting donations form each sorority and fraternity this week to be given to the World Care organization, said Talia Wright, Alpha Phi's philanthropy chair.
The two groups will distribute collection boxes to each chapter, and for one week they will collect various supplies including diapers, hygiene supplies, toiletries and non-perishable food, said Wright, a retailing and consumer sciences sophomore.
Both groups said they originally planned to donate clothes and other products to the TCC, however, the center is discouraging additional donations because they no longer need them.
The donations will now be given to World Care, which is no longer accepting clothes donations, sometime next week, Talia said.
Instead of making this a competition between chapters, Alpha Phi and Kappa Sigma want this drive to bring the greek community together to donate to the victims of the hurricane, said Jon Burckle, president of Kappa Sigma.
"A lot of college students don't understand the pain and agony these people who have been ripped from their homes and family are experiencing," Wright said. "When we donate these items, we can put faces and emotions to the victims of the hurricane."
- Danielle Rideau contributed to this report.