|Carter Ilgenfritz, wife Haven and son Carter are enjoying life in Shreveport, 300 miles from their home city of New Orleans.
Shreveport is the home of the floating Hollywood Casino, with its faux art deco sign, and an array of other riverboats. Just like in New Orleans. This northwestern Louisiana city of 200,000 people also is now home, as New Orleans once was, to Carter Ilgenfritz ’96, his wife Haven and sons Carter, 2, and newborn Brooks.
Five hours and 300 miles from his birthplace, Ilgenfritz has taken a shine to Shreveport, which he calls “a good-sized town—not too big, not too small. My wife misses her family, but I’ve enjoyed moving to Shreveport.”
He counts himself among the fortunate ones. When Katrina struck his home in Metairie, it dumped 2.5 feet of water into his ranch-style house. Ilgenfritz and family already had left their home on Sunday morning, the day before Katrina hit, and spent 11 hours making what is normally a 2.5-hour drive to Avery Island, where his wife’s family owns a house. “Being stuck on the road was the worst part of the whole experience,” he recalls.
When Ilgenfritz saw what it would take to rebuild his home, he accepted a job that had been offered him before the storm. After Katrina hit, “the decision was pretty easy,” he says. He’s now selling medical equipment to doctors and hospitals for ConMed Linvatec.
His father, a physician, has offices in an area of New Orleans that was unaffected, so he is not going to leave, says Ilgenfritz. “Most of my friends have moved, though.”
Living through Hurricane Katrina, he says, “hasn’t changed my life profoundly. We were really fortunate in that we were covered by insurance and could sell our house [they gutted it and sold it as-is]. But it’s made me more cautious about going back to live down there. If the opportunity did come up and we could move back, much as we love it, we probably would not make that move. The now more-cautious part of me sees what can happen and how quickly things can be turned upside down. Things could have turned out a lot differently.”
Another reason Ilgenfritz won’t risk a return is “New Orleans doesn’t have strong leadership, which is something it is going to need to rebuild and get back on its feet.”
Now looking back on that chaotic time 18 months ago, Ilgenfritz says, “We were blessed in that we were able to make a comeback. I still had work, we had insurance and a place to stay for almost a month. So, I think, if anything, we are grateful that we came out of it as whole as we did.”