Hurricane watch means more with their son in harm's way

By Ronald MacArthur

All of us have been transfixed to the television over the past week watching the horrors unfold following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We were also watching as the storm exploded from a category one to a category five hurricane as it bore down on the Gulf Coast.

Rob and Stephanie Perciful of Bridgeville were keeping an anxious eye on the powerful storm as it approached the gulf region the weekend of Aug. 27-28 because their son, Andrew, lives in New Orleans. They were also making many hourly phone calls to their son as the storm intensified and focused in on the New Orleans area as ground zero.

According to Rob, his son left his apartment on Sunday and it took him five hours to drive 12 miles in the massive traffic jam caused by the evacuation to the north. His apartment, which is located about one-quarter of a mile from Lake Pontchartrain, is now under about 15 feet of water.

"He left and headed to Birmingham, Ala. and when he got there, we called him and told him to stay put," Rob said.

But by the time they called, Andrew had already left and was headed east to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. to stay with another Seaford graduate, Matt Morris, who is attending the University of North Florida. He stayed with relatives, visited a few other classmates at colleges in the South and was due to arrive home this week.

"It's good that he didn't listen to us because there were tornado warnings all over the Birmingham area and he really got out just in the nick of time," Rob said.

Andrew, a 2004 Seaford High School graduate, was set to attend his first year at the Culinary Institute of New Orleans starting on Sept. 6. The school is located in the Garden District on Jackson Avenue, one of the areas hit by flooding. He works at the English Turn Country Club in New Orleans.

Rob said that he wanted his son to come home because there is no way of knowing when the school will be open for classes, but his son has other plans. "He wants to get back to New Orleans because he has friends who didn't get out and he wants to go back and help," he said.

He talked about one couple who have a week-old baby who didn't leave the city. "And he hasn't heard from them and can't get up with them," Rob said. "But with a total city evacuation and roads closed, there is no way he can get anywhere near New Orleans."

As it turns out, they will both be returning to the area - as Red Cross volunteers.

After talking, the father and son decided they needed to do more than talk about the situation. They are joining the relief effort as Red Cross volunteers. "Andrew had some buddies who didn't get out," Rob said. "We feel we need to do something."

They will report for training in Wilmington on Friday and he said he will find out when they will be transported south for their three-week tour of duty to help with the relief effort.

Rob, who is a veteran teacher at Seaford High School, said that he has never missed more than two days in a row in his entire teaching career. "But I have 78 sick days and the district is going to let me use some of those," he said. Rob said that the family has made several trips to New Orleans over the past two years and they have really grown to love the city. He said that the disaster is terrible. "It's a vision of hell."

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