Community

Aug 30, 2012 12:52 AM by Andy Koen

How Katrina changed Colorado Springs

Hurricane Isaac made landfall on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of America's worst natural disasters. The impact of the storm reverberated across the country, even changing lives 1,200 miles away in Colorado Springs.

Professor Michael Larson is the El Pomar Chair of Engineering and Innovation at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, but seven years ago he was teaching at Tulane University in New Orleans.

"It was probably the fifth time or so that we had evacuated because of the storm and we had high hopes that it would go pretty much like the other times where we would have a forced one-day vacation out of town and then come back," Larson recalled.

He soon realized he couldn't come back. His home and the university were both badly damaged and Larson was forced to reinvent himself.

Like hundreds of evacuees, Larson came to Colorado Springs and a year later had launched a the new innovation degree program and the Mind Studios which helps local inventors take their ideas to market.

"We get caught up in the business of life trying to get things accomplished, time passes quickly and if it weren't for Katrina I would probably still be in New Orleans and doing things there."

Today at Rico's Cafe and Wine Bar, owner Richard Skorman serves patrons looking to relax. But in 2005 his building was used to organize volunteers and help evacuees.

"We raised $150,000 in cash, people were coming up here, we actually brought 2,000 people up from the gulf coast and we made sure all their needs were taken care of," Skorman said.

He saw the same level of compassion emerge from the community earlier this summer during our own natural disaster.

"These were other Americans that had this catastrophe happen to them and it could've happened to any of us and we saw the same thing with the Waldo Canyon Fire."

They are just couple of examples of how a national tragedy changed the community for the better.

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