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Former New Orleans Student Building New Life At N.C. State

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RALEIGH, N.C. — William Mitchell's dorm room near the N.C. State Bell Tower is pretty plain. It is home to his only valued remaining possession -- a laptop -- in a place he never expected to call home.

"Hopefully I'll get used to it," said Mitchell. "Learn to enjoy Raleigh."

Mitchell thought he'd be home two days after Hurricane Katrina hit, but this weekend, it will be five months. He's part of a new "pack" now.

"It's something that makes you stronger, but at the same time, it's scary," said Mitchell. "It's really scary."

Mitchell came to N.C. State from the University of New Orleans. And even though it has reopened, his home -- a block from the university -- was soaked in water for three weeks. On the inside, it was overtaken by mold. On the outside, there are National Guard's markings -- 0 dead inside.

"I wake up every day and I'm happy to be alive, because there were a lot of people who lost family, friends, lost their own lives," he said.

Unlike most college students, Mitchell can never go back home, as he knew it. His friends are dispersed all over the country. The neighborhood he lived in is now rotted and deserted. His mother, who is also now in Raleigh, is unemployed and is still fighting with insurance companies.

"I'm struggling to stay in school from a financial aspect," he said.

Last semester, everything was covered. That assistance is gone now. He may say that he's happy to be alive with a laugh, but there is also sadness, confirming Katrina is alive too.

"It was a rough thing to get over," he said. "But like I said, I still have life, family's doing well and I'll get through it."

Mitchell said the N.C. State community has been more than welcoming. He said last semester, his professors personally gave him new books for his classes.


Gloria Lopez, Reporter
Bobbie Eng, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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