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They were lucky, if such a term may apply in the context of a hurricane, to have secured the last rental car available at the Louis Armstrong Airport in soon-to-be ravaged New Orleans. Three foreign attorneys had just settled into their new community, known throughout the world for its eccentric charms. They awaited opening day at Tulane University Law School, where they were set to pursue environmental law studies toward master degrees. But then came word of Hurricane Katrina barreling up the Gulf of Mexico, aimed squarely at New Orleans. The trio — Anna Burghardt of Berlin and Brazilians Maria Christiana Toledo of Sao Paulo and Antonio Reis of Rio de Janeiro — became comrades of the road north, eventually making their way to Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y., which specializes in environmental law. Reis described the odyssey that began as the foreigners made haste on the mild and sunny Saturday before Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29. “We decided to go to Houston, but we couldn’t understand the traffic system,” he said. “So we wound up heading north to Mississippi, where we landed in Jackson. The weather was still nice.” The roads were not. “They were all crowded, and everybody was lost,” said Reis. “There was only one entrance to Interstate 10 [the main exit route from New Orleans]. A lot of people missed it, and had to turn around and go back.” Listening to the weather reports from Jackson as they waited — certainly no more than a few days as the thinking went — the trio grew concerned that Katrina might catch up with them in their Mississippi refuge. “So we had to go to Dallas, which we did. But then we went on to Florida to stay at a friend’s apartment,” said Reis, emitting a whistle at the recollection of an odyssey of so many miles, and so little ease. “We had no clue what would happen to us. Cell phones weren’t working.” And he had no way of knowing that Mark R. Shulman, director of the graduate program at Pace Law, had contacted Tulane officials to welcome stranded students to White Plains. The trio would soon learn of that, however, in online research conducted when they finally arrived in Florida. “They drove up to New York and stayed on the floor of a cousin’s home in Manhattan,” said Shulman, who coordinated emergency scholastic transfers with help from the American Bar Association. “On the Tuesday morning after Labor Day, they showed up at my office. We got them class schedules, books and housing and computer accounts. And we notified Homeland Security as to where they were.” Shulman also brokered a special accommodation for Burghardt, whose German government scholarship hinged on her taking a course in admiralty law in addition to environmental studies. Since Pace offers admiralty law only in the spring, Burghardt is taking that class at Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan. “Our concern now is if our stuff is all there at our rented houses in New Orleans,” said Reis. “We have no way of knowing now. We only took a small bag each, and passports and some documents. Thank God I took my laptop.” He considered the irony of it all. “We’re environmental lawyers,” he said, “and this is the year we choose to come to a place like New Orleans?”

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