(Here is an interview from late-2005.)
UAT Student Survives Hurricane Katrina
By Trevor Green
New UAT student Vince Lutton was one of many that fled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The former Tulane University student relocated to pursue his education in game design, and found a new opportunity in the face of adversity.
We talked with Vince about his experiences, evacuating his college home and his future plans.
UAT: Where are you from?
Vince Lutton: I’m actually originally from Texas (Uvalde-right near San Antonio and an hour away from Mexico). I’ve been going to school at Tulane in New Orleans for the last four years. I was getting ready to start my senior year there, and our classes got cancelled.
I heard about UAT a year ago and I was really interested in joining the video game programming [program]. I had already applied here, so I was like, “You know, it’s the perfect opportunity to go check it out.” I looked at it as more of an opportunity than a detriment.
UAT: When you were at Tulane, were you thinking about the same program?
VL: There’s a brand-new program that they started, video game development. Since I’ve gotten involved in this program [at UAT], I’ve realized how it [the Tulane program] was really just a computer science program-nothing else. They call edit video game programming-I’m pretty sure-just to attract more technology students. So I’m glad that I’m here and it ended up working out pretty well in that respect.
UAT: When the evacuations were going on, what was going through your head?
VL: I’ve been going to school there for four years, so we’ve had several hurricanes come and go. When we heard that they were coming, we would evacuate; then we would come back and everything would be perfect. It almost became like a vacation for a little while there.
You forget how serious they really are. The first few times, we boarded up windows and put tape on them. This time, we didn’t do much to prepare. We heard that it was coming, and we had to evacuate. My little sister just started school there-this was going to be her freshman year-so I had to get her out of there as well. We just piled up everybody that I could fit in my car and drove to Texas [Vince was born in Houston]. I had two changes of clothes and that’s it- everything was left behind. My roommate left his car in front of our house down the street; somebody e-mailed me a picture of our street [after the hurricane] and his car is not there-it’s gone and just washed away somewhere. I don’t know if my stuff’s gone (my guitars, my computer and everything); I have no idea.
It’s crazy, but I keep reminding myself that it’s just stuff and that I’m okay and so are my friends. I had some friends that were staying behind, but they left at the last minute.
UAT: What was it like watching the footage on CNN and the other news stations?
VL: It was awful-there’s really no word to describe it. Even though I’m not originally from New Orleans, it became my home. I was planning on staying there, and I was going to try to get a job there after I graduated. I love the city; it’s an amazing, amazing place.
I can’t even describe it; seeing everything that you love, underwater… I had friends that evacuated with me in New Orleans; one of them was so depressed, we couldn’t bounce him out of the depression. Watching that kind of devastation happen to your home was just awful. It was just a shame.
UAT: How are you keeping in touch with everyone there?
VL: Cell phones still aren’t working, and of course there are no landlines. All of my friends got evacuated out to other colleges, so wee-mail. Everyone had to set up new e-mail accounts because our Tulane accounts are still down, so everybody e-mails around or borrows somebody’s cell phone from wherever they’re at. It’s good to know that everyone’s okay. It’s a tough situation; everyone had to be scattered. It’s our senior year, so it was the worst possible moment [for this to happen].
UAT: What are your thoughts right now?
VL: Honestly, I’m still confused about what I want to do. I do like the program here a lot, so I’m not sure that I’m going to end up staying here at UAT until I graduate, or if trying to go back; I don’t even know if I’ll have a place to go back to-it just really depends. I do like this school a lot; it would be nice if there were a few more girls here. Other than that, it’s a really good school.
Mainly, I’m just hoping that everything gets worked out there. I hear that they’re pumping out up to billions of gallons of water daily, and they’ve pumped out three-quarters of a trillion gallons of water so far out of the city. So it’s all about rebuilding. I would love to go back and see the city back up to its glory; I don’t know if you could call New Orleans majestic, but [I’d like to see it back to] it’s former glory.
UAT: What do you think of the relief efforts?
VL: I really can’t commend the relief efforts for Louisiana. They were so slow on the uptake there and the National Guard wasn’t ready. It really was a disaster-I think everyone agrees on that. It’s awful; if you look at those images, it didn’t look like the United States of America at all-it looked like a third-world country. [They] simply didn’t have the resources to be prepared for that kind of disaster.
Like I said, with Houston I think they’re going to be a lot more prepared [and] a lot more efficient if it hits the area-which hopefully It veers off.
UAT: Now you’re here a UAT. Are you helping with any of the donating efforts?
VL: I went to the first Student Government meeting with that expressed desire, and it was already on the agenda. I suggested some sort of LAN party, but I’m really happy with what the organization is doing; the dollar-for-dollar to $15,000 is really incredible. FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] is sending money to a lot of the Katrina victims, and if I do end up getting money from that, I can contribute a few hundred bucks to this effort. If there’s more I can do, I’d do more.