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BU staffer joins Disaster Corps

Dan Tyburski took an unpaid leave of absence to volunteer in Gulf Coast cleanup after Hurricane Katrina.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a 76-year-old woman and her best friend decided to ride out worst of the storm in her home on the gulf coast of Mississippi. The woman survived, clinging to life for six hours in an air conditioning vent, but her best friend and pets died in the destroyed apartment building.

This tragic story was just one of many that CAS academic advisor Dan Tyburski could tell after returning March 6 from his five week trip to Bay St. Louis, Miss. After watching a CNN report on the gulf coast devastation, he e-mailed a non-profit organization called Disaster Corps, formed in 1999 in response to flooding after Hurricane Floyd. He then took an unpaid leave of absence from the University for much of the winter to travel with the organization. “I thought, I’ve got to do something, I can’t just sit around.”

When the Disaster Corps staff learned of the story of the 76-year-old woman, they sent Dan and his team out to strip the house down to its skeleton, and clean up an apartment that hadn’t been touched in six months. “Dead pets hadn’t been removed…the fridge hadn’t been emptied, and ceilings were collapsed,” he said. “But people haven’t given up. You can see what a great community it is, and how people rely on each other.”