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A year ago, Lindsey Rowe found out it's true what they say about best laid plans. Hurricane Katrina uprooted her during her first day as a freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans, and changed her life forever.

She now is a sophomore international studies major at Old Dominion University, but on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005, she was moving into a dormitory at Tulane, where she planned to study engineering.

Rowe's parents-the family lives in Virginia Beach-had driven her to Tulane amidst forecasts that Katrina may hit land at New Orleans. "But we didn't think of hurricanes as being a big deal," she said. "The worst that had ever happened to us over the years in Virginia Beach was we lost a tree house in the backyard."

Katrina was different. The 18-year-old never had a chance to sleep in her dorm room because a universitywide evacuation was announced on Saturday evening. Rowe grabbed a few pair of shorts and four T-shirts and joined a bus caravan with hundreds of other students to Jackson State University in Mississippi.

The plan was to get out of Katrina's way for a few days, and then return to Tulane for the beginning of classes. The party atmosphere at Jackson State turned to chaos within 36 hours, however, as it became clear how devastating Katrina was. The students were told they would have to move farther away from the Gulf Coast.

This time, Rowe fled home to Virginia Beach. The word from Tulane was that the dorms were sealed and the first semester was canceled. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded. More than 1,000 people were dead.

She said her plan was to return to Tulane, but she didn't want to sit out the fall semester. She became one of about 20 Katrina evacuees who got special permission to enroll at ODU in the fall of 2005.

As happy as she was to be back among family and friends, and back in school, Rowe said she couldn't shake a profound angst because "this is not how things were supposed to work out." Her clothes, personal items and favorite DVDs were locked in a dorm room at Tulane. "It all seemed surreal. For a long time I couldn't talk about it without crying," she said.

She said she couldn't concentrate in her classes and her academic performance early in the fall semester at ODU prompted her to switch from an engineering focus to international studies and German.

Slowly Rowe's spirits improved. She found "a tremendous amount of support from people at ODU," she said. The four who have meant the most to her are Carolyn S. Eakin, director of technology and data analysis in admissions; Karen R. Kendall, university scholarship coordinator in financial aid; Lee C. Land, a lecturer in mathematics; and Barbara M. Jeffrey, an administrative assistant in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. "They seemed to understand how hard it was for me," Rowe said.

She was able to go to New Orleans in November to retrieve her belongings, and about that time she made the decision to stick with ODU and not return to Tulane.

This article was posted on: August 29, 2006

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