Finding a Silver Lining

By Adelaide Penzone, Lindsay Epstein, Olivia Aepli, Jacob Buchanan & Ryan Terefenko

Redshirt senior pole-vaulter, Robby Oswald, resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, and though he has lived there since he was seven, he is a New Orleans native. Robby and his family were one of the millions affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He and his family were used to  hurricanes being called “the worst hurricane ever,” so unlike most of his neighbors, his family decided to stay in New Orleans through the storm.

The family prepared like normal and Robby and his siblings even played in the rain before the storm made landfall. However; when the storm hit, the laughter and smiles quickly faded as they watched as water poured into his childhood home, flooding and damaging throughout. Soon, the whole first floor was under water. Robby’s parents; and three grandparents were trying to save as many things as they could by stacking items on the kitchen table and bringing them to a second-floor room.

With minimal access to the first floor, Robby’s second floor was turned into their kitchen, pantry and living room.  Soon after, the Oswalds found themselves trapped on the second floor and the roof.

While sitting on the roof observing the effects that Katrina had done to their neighborhood, Robby’s family could see a canoe floating down the street toward them, getting stuck on carsand houses. His father Scott, decided to swim out and retrieve the boat. Being a young boy, Robby was terrified that something would happen to his father and truly that an alligator would get him, but his father was able to get the boat safely. Scott used the boat to explore damage the hurricane had caused. They used wood from their fence as paddles and the family set out to venture in the boat.

The family decided to take the canoe to Robby’s school just a couple blocks down the street to explore. After seeing the horrific scenes of the ruins caused by Katrina, his parents decided to return home to drop off Robby and his sister and later go back out in the canoe alone. Robby, at seven years old, was frightened his parents would not return, but after three long hours they came home tired but content. Robby, his grandparents, and sister ran to greet them as they entered the property. Robby’s parents had taken so long to return because they stopped to help other families who were stuck in their homes.

“My parents were so brave, they were heroes to the many people they saved and to my entire family.”

The Oswalds stayed in their home for about two days before deciding it was time to leave. The family began to pack and were only allowed one bag when they left with the U.S. Coast Guard. They boated to a highway that was clear of the flood and then boarded a military bus that took his family, along with his cousin’s who lived down the street from him, to Lafayette Square in New Orleans, where shelters were ready for survivors. From the shelters, the Oswalds rented a car and drove to Louisiana State University where all five of them stayed in a cousin’s dorm room floor. Robby’s parents decided the only option they had  was to go to Cincinnati where his mother is originally from to take his grandpa home. 

The flooding didn’t subside for more than two weeks. Not knowing when the family could go back home, Robby and his siblings were enrolled in Cincinnati schools. His father eventually went back to try to salvage what was left in their home and the memories they had there. However, Mr. Oswald came back to Cincinnati and now lives a very happy life after overcoming all the hardships they faced from Katrina. 

With the devastating effects Hurricane Katrina had on people, Robby was able to find a silver lining. If he had not moved to Cincinnati, his older sister would never have gone to Ohio State and exposed Robby to his love of the school. He would then never have discovered his passion for pole vaulting which gave him the opportunity to be a student-athlete. 

While the pain Hurricane Katrina caused him and his family was something nobody should have to suffer, it made Robby who is today and he is forever grateful for that. The experience taught him how to be strong, giving and grateful for every opportunity he has and Robby carries that with him every day as a student-athlete at Ohio State.