Though the circumstances were unusual, Susann Lusnia, a professor in the Classics Department at Tulane University, felt lucky to be back at the University of Cincinnati.
"I had been teaching at Tulane University since the fall of 2000," Lusnia said. "When we heard Hurricane Katrina was coming, my husband Bert and I, along with a colleague who had just arrived from Italy, left the day before the storm hit and went to Memphis."
It was in Memphis that Lusnia realized she would not be returning home or teaching at the university for a while.
"We went to Virginia, where my family lives and stayed there for a while," Lusnia said. "I had been in touch with old professors of mine and people I knew in Cincinnati. They offered me a place to stay and an office to work in if I wanted to come and spend the fall."
Lusnia was given a place to stay in the Tytus Fellow housing and several weeks later awarded a Tytus Fellowship.
"I felt it would be the best thing that I could do because the classics library is so wonderful," Lusnia said. "I knew the department really well since I had done my graduate work here."
Lusnia earned a master's degree and PhD. at UC before joining the faculty at Tulane.
"I haven't been doing any teaching, just research," Lusnia said. "I do most of my work in Roman art and archeology. What I'm doing is taking the dissertation I wrote here at UC on the building program of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus and turning it into a book. It's the sort of thing I need to submit for tenure."
Along with her research, Lusnia has had the opportunity to lecture and participate in a Classics Department mini-symposium on natural disasters past and present.
"I actually talked about the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. It's interesting because I teach a course on Pompeii at Tulane starting with the history and then the destruction," Lusnia said. "I think our discussion from now on will be the destruction and natural disasters in the ancient world. All of us at Tulane are going to look at things a little differently after what's happened."
Odd is the word Lusnia uses to describe the whole experience.
"I have to admit, as much as I have enjoyed being able to use the library here in the Classics Department and having the time to work on the book, I'd much rather be teaching my classes," Lusnia said. "I feel very lucky. For me, things have worked out really well. I've been able to do some things I normally wouldn't get to do in fall semester and there are still a few friends here from when I was a grad student. It has been good."
About a month after Katrina, Lusnia and her husband went home to New Orleans. Unlike so many others, they discovered that their house was in the small part of the city that had not flooded.
"We have an old, single shotgun style house that has slate on some parts of it," Lusnia said. "Some of the slate roof shingles were blown right off by the wind. And now, four months later, we are still trying to get it fixed."
Lusnia returned home around Christmas and will resume teaching Jan. 17 when classes begin again at Tulane.