The generosity of Average Americans – you should be ashamed, politicans!
Football-crazy towns embrace evacuees
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (AP) — In football-crazy towns like this one, the confrontation has loomed all week: Would Katrina evacuees be sent packing again, this time by college football fans in town for opening weekend?
The answer has been a resounding no.
Football fans around the Southeast are giving up their prepaid rooms and even tickets to storm victims — opting to stay home and watch the game on TV.
“We were very concerned,” said Jerry Hymel, who took refuge with his wife in Tuscaloosa after leaving New Orleans a week ago. His hotel warned evacuees that they might have to make way for football fans who had made reservations months ago.
“Now, we can’t say enough about the hospitality here.”
In Mississippi the Attorney General’s office told hotel managers that under emergency conditions, they could not force out hurricane evacuees.
In Tallahassee, Florida, where the biggest game of the weekend — Miami-Florida State — is scheduled for Monday, rooms opened up as fans canceled plans to attend the game, primarily because of the gas shortage.
In Tuscaloosa, where “Roll Tide” signs dot area businesses, the conflict surfaced early in the week. The Tuscaloosa News reported that New Orleans resident Camp Morrison was steaming, as he moved out of a hotel Wednesday.
“I think it’s abysmal that evacuees are flushed out because of a football game,” he said.
At both Alabama and Mississippi State, the schools urged fans to give up their hotel rooms, and local leaders worked with hotels to make sure there would be enough space.
Many fans not only gave up rooms but offered to pay for the evacuees to use them, said Robert Ratliff, executive director of the local convention and visitors bureau.
“This is far more important than football. I think everybody here knows that,” said Ratliff, adding that he donated his four tickets to Saturday’s game to evacuees.
Florence resident Billy Ray Moore, an Alabama booster, has been coming here on football weekends for decades. But he didn’t hesitate to give up his room and stay home for the game.
“We had people who lost everything they had,” he said. “What I did was minor.”
Some 1,100 evacuees are in Tuscaloosa hotels, Ratliff said, and another 500 are being housed on campus, with others in shelters or taken in by local churches. More are expected as the evacuation continues.
“We’re going to do this every football weekend all season if we have to,” said Brian Hass, general manager of the Jameson Inn, where local officials and radio station representatives dropped off donated food, water, clothes and other items to evacuees Friday.
Mississippi State offered free tickets to evacuees for Saturday’s home opener with Murray State.
“Everyone understands that these people have nothing and that they have nowhere else to go,” said Arma delaCruz Salazar, vice president of tourism for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. “So we want to help them and let this be their home for as long as it takes.”