Students taking shelter: On-campus residents remain resilient through Hurricane Ida


Symiah Dorsey/The Lion's Roar

Inside the University Center on Aug. 29, a student evacuee passes time by reading a book, sharing an inflatable air mattress with a fellow student.

On-campus evacuees were some of the first to witness the flooded roads, downed powerlines and fallen trees that covered Southeastern’s campus on the morning of Aug. 30.

In preparation for the wrath of Hurricane Ida, the university moved all student residents remaining on campus to the University Center by 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29. By nightfall, students and university staff members sat in uncertainty as the hurricane struck through Hammond as a category two.

“My first night there, I was wide awake the whole night because of the sounds of the trees falling and the wind howling. I kept thinking to myself ‘wow, that’s the hardest gust of wind I’ve heard so far,’ and then two minutes later I’d find myself saying it again,” said Jessica LaFontaine, a sophomore education major.

Students were encouraged to bring blankets, pillows, snacks, toiletries, and other necessities. Still, nothing could prepare the evacuees for the devastation of Hurricane Ida, whose aftermath would ultimately prolong their stay at the shelter.

Jordan Henderson, a sophomore psychology major, said his worries began to heighten once flooding posed a threat to the arena.

“The first night at the shelter was kind of concerning, listening to the wind hit the building and hearing the trees fall, and then later, water started breaching the building.”

By 9 p.m, the evacuees were in the dark, using flashlights to navigate their way around the arena.

“They gave us food and water as we needed it, and it was more food than I was expecting. I made a couple of friends and we stuck together the whole time and played games and talked. We had to move to a more elevated level in the University Center, and it was scary being asked to move so quickly,” LaFontaine said.

Students rushed upwards onto the upper level of the University Center, where they set up their beds for the night. 

“The most uncomfortable experience was definitely sleeping on the aggressively solid ground and not being able to shower until the second night there, but the most unique part of the experience was seeing how a community can rally together and make the best of a bad situation. A positive takeaway that I had was seeing how much my school actually cares for my well-being,” LaFontaine said. 

On Aug. 30, students and staff members caught a glimpse of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Ida through the glass panels of the arena. Student evacuees were then transported to the REC center, where they spent their second night.

Henderson, an out-of-state student from Dallas, said he was able to enjoy his second night at the shelter due to the connections he made.

“The most memorable part of the night were the friends I made, playing card games, sharing stories with each other and more,” said Henderson.

By the third day, students such as Henderson were able to check out of the shelter and safely evacuate Hammond. The university moved all remaining students into dorm rooms. Although electricity was still unavailable, students could once again sleep in beds. 

LaFontaine said she was grateful for the university’s guidance through the unprecedented events of Hurricane Ida.

“I felt that the university handled the situation as best they could. We were as comfortable as we could be in a time like this. The only thing my peers and I wanted more of was communication. We felt like we were a little out of the loop for a while, but we understood it’s because they didn’t have answers to give us yet,” she said

Although the storm wreaked havoc on Hammond, Lafontaine said her love for the university remained standing.

She said, “We truly are one big family, and although we may get frustrated with some things, we are taken care of.” 

The university has since relocated all remaining student residents in the shelter to the University of Louisiana Monroe, where they will stay until further notice.