Things are a little calmer now in Brad Alleven’s life, but the past week was tough. He got out of New Orleans alive. He got the cast off his leg. And he got through his father’s funeral.

From the day Hurricane Katrina walloped the Gulf Coast, Alleven dealt with a lot. Thousands — hundreds of thousands — dealt with a lot. Everyone who lived through it has a story to tell, each as sorrowful and horrifying as the next. In that regard, Alleven’s is no different.

What makes his different, of course, is that he’s one of ours. And, while most were mourning the loss of life in the bayou, Alleven was mourning the sudden loss of a loved one in Minnesota, and fighting to get out of New Orleans and back home in time to say good-bye.

“It was the worst week of my life,” he said Wednesday from the rural Mapleton farm house his parents have owned for years.

Alleven was born and raised in Mapleton and left for college in 1970. He attended St. John’s University until 1974, then returned to southern Minnesota. He worked various jobs for several years until, during a punishing winter, he had an epiphany: “It was a little cold up here,” he said. “It was time to seek warmer weather.”

He headed straight south and wound up in New Orleans. After attending law school, he found work with a fire suppression company and has worked there happily ever since. He considers New Orleans his adopted hometown.

Part of his job involves checking equipment on oil rigs and ships in the Gulf of Mexico. That means he keeps close watch on the weather, and Alleven was nervous about Hurricane Katrina long before it began leading national newscasts.

Eventually the storm swirled its way toward Louisiana, and with one cold front perched over the East Coast and another over middle America, there was no place for Katrina to go but up the middle, and right over New Orleans.

The human exodus began as a trickle the Thursday before Katrina hit. By Friday, freeway traffic was bumper to bumper, with all freeway lanes heading the same direction: away. Alleven, however, was not among them. He planned to stick it out.

He had his reasons. First, he’d recently had surgery on his right foot. He was sporting a fiberglass cast, found it difficult to drive and needed crutches to amble around. Second, he wasn’t convinced Hurricane Katrina would be the apocalyptic storm some were predicting. Like thousands of others, he hunkered down.

The storm began spitting at the coast Sunday night. A few hours later, electricity was gone. A few more hours still, running water was gone. He looked out his window and saw giant sheets of aluminum siding flying through the air and his apartment complex parking lot flooded, but still thought that, in a few days’ time, all would be well.

He stayed in his main floor apartment unit as long as he could, but when the flood waters came to within an inch of his front door, he sought shelter in an upstairs neighbor’s apartment. Alleven and several other refugee residents stayed in that room, the only one with a generator to keep the television news on and the refrigerator humming.

By Tuesday, he was wondering when aid would arrive. Across the country, meanwhile, relatives began trying to reach him. They wondered if he was OK, but they also had some bad news for him. But phone lines were down. And while funeral arrangements were being made, his family wondered if they’d be able to reach him in time.

By Wednesday, when no help was coming to New Orleans, Alleven made the decision to head home. He tried the airport, but all flights were canceled. He tried to get a fellow apartment resident to sell him a car to make the trip — he feared his own car wouldn’t make it — but that failed, as well.

Finally, three residents decided to get in that unsold car and head northeast to Tennessee. While packing his bags, though, the phones unexplainably were working again, and the call two days in the making came through. It was his brother. Their father, he told Alleven, had died. The wake was the next day. Alleven desperately wanted to make it.

“I only have one father, and I knew there’d only be one funeral for him,” Alleven said. “I made every attempt to get back ... He’d been a good father.”

Alleven siphoned gas out of his car and filled up the unsold car. When they left, they had three-quarters of a tank. They knew they’d need to fill up again before they reached Memphis, where Alleven hoped to catch a flight home and make it in time for the wake.

Cars packed the freeways. And as they went north through Mississippi, every gas station was either closed or had mile-long lines of cars waiting for gas. They kept going north, and stopped at small town 100 miles south of Memphis where they found a new gas station opening the next day. A local church gave them a place to sleep.

They gassed up at 5 a.m. and headed for Memphis, where he grabbed the first flight he could to Minneapolis. Luckily, it left an hour after he arrived at the Memphis airport. Having not bathed since Sunday, he got on the plane — still on crutches, still in a cast — and flew to Minnesota.

He hooked up with relatives in the Minneapolis airport who were coming to the funeral.

“They were the first family faces I’d seen,” he said. “It was a relief, in a way. And, meeting under these circumstances, depressing in a way.”

Together, the drove to Mapleton, his home town. And after cleaning up and finding something to wear, he ambled over to the church and said good-bye to his father. He was an hour late for the wake. But at least he’d made it.

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