Student Starts Over After Katrina

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

November 21, 2006

Cary Koch started college on a Division 1 football team in a city he loved, but on August 29th all that would change.

"As we're moving them into the dorm, over loud speakers, over megaphones, I mean everything, people are saying: 'Move your stuff, stop moving things, bring it back to the cars,'" said Cary Koch who was helping freshman move into the dorms.

Koch and the rest of the Tulane football team packed a bag for 2 days and headed to Jackson, Mississippi. The ride, which is usually an hour and a half took 13 hours. The two day trip turned into five nights sleeping on the floor of a gym and many of the days spent without electricity.

"We soon lost contact and we couldn't charge our cell phones, so people were turning cell phones off at all times just to make desperate calls and people had family down there to find out where they were," said Koch.

New Orleans students transferred all over the country for their fall semester. In fact UVA admitted 122.

"I was very proud of our staff in how everybody jumped into it thinking we can do something worthwhile here," said UVa Dean of Admission John Blackburn.

But Koch stayed. The Tulane football team moved from Jackson State to SMU and ended up at Louisiana Tech, to try and salvage their season.

"We had 11 different games in 11 different stadiums, which was pretty incredible for a season. We went 2-9, which isn't very good, but I guess we had an excuse, but we didn't want to say we did," said Koch.

When he returned to Tulane, he said it felt different, almost empty.

"You saw everyone because everyone had to eat at the cafeteria, everyone had to do things on campus and you really couldn't go off campus because it was really too dangerous or there was just nothing there," said Koch. "I just don't think that New Orleans will ever be the same, the New Orleans that I once knew."

Koch ended up transferring to UVa fall 2005 and says it's been an easy transition.

"It's always hard for a transfer, but it's been so easy with the team and friends. When they hear I'm from Tulane they kind of give me a little sympathy, but it's more like they know I'm here now and they want to be friends," said Koch.

He now wears number 26 and is a wide receiver for the Cavaliers.

"To be disrupted as so many people down there by Katrina, he's really rebounded with a fighting spirit. This is great. Even though he didn't see a lot of action today to come from those circumstances and be part of something like this today," said Cavalier Head Football Coach Al Groh after UVa defeated Miami.

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