SDSU graduate returns home after Katrina

Tara Halbritter

Tara Halbritter

Carmen Toft, a 26-year-old SDSU graduate, watched Hurricane Katrina coverage from her sister’s home in Fargo, N.D., not knowing if her home was still standing in Louisiana.

“I was one of the lucky ones,”said Toft, whose home is still standing and is not underwater.

Toft was visiting her sister when Katrina hit. When Toft was finally able to get to her home in Slidell, La., she found that the house had no damage, but it smelled. With the city losing electricity, all of the food in her refrigerator and freezer spoiled.

Even though she was fortunate, Toft is still packing up and moving back to Brookings. She will live with her friend Deb Kurtz, who is currently pursuing her secondary education teaching certification at SDSU.

Kurtz and Toft met while attending SDSU as undergraduates.

Kurtz is prepared for her friend’s arrival.

“I’ve fixed up a room in the basement,”she said, adding that Toft has even picked out her own paint colors for the room.

Toft’s family is excited about her moving back. She is originally from Gary, and her parents are thrilled that she’ll be close to home again.

“It’ll be nice,” said Gail Toft, Carmen’s mother. She said people from her hometown have shown genuine concern for her daughter’s well-being.

Dennis Toft, Carmen’s father, is also happy that his daughter is moving back to Brookings.

“She’ll be a lot closer for us to go and see her,” he said.

Before Katrina hit, Toft worked as an events manager at the, Northshore Harbor Center. That building was severely damaged by wind and water, and she was officially laid off two weeks after the hurricane swept through Louisiana. The center may soon be used as a relief shelter for hurricane victims.

The company she worked for is still providing her with benefits until she finds full-time employment.

Toft has already found a part-time job in Brookings. She will work at the Swiftel center, where she was employed before she moved.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has given Toft refugee assistance. The Brookings -area Red Cross has pitched in as well.

At the moment, Toft does not plan on moving back to Slidell.

“I don’t really have a concrete plan, but I kind of like the thought of being home for a while,” said Toft. “I really like Brookings … It’s a good place to live.”

Toft said she still has friends missing. The whereabouts of three of her former co-workers are unknown.

Family and friends are doing what they can to help Toft.

“She’s a great person, and I’m delighted to be able to help her,” said Kurtz.