TV spot lands New Orleans family in Oro Valley - Tucson Local Media: Import

TV spot lands New Orleans family in Oro Valley

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Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2005 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:49 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

September 21, 2005 - When a journalist with ABC News spotted Fernando Giordano boarding up his New Orleans arts supply store one windy day in late August, he recognized good material for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

The Giordanos had moved to the city known as Big Easy from Long Island, N.Y., only a year earlier to live in a safer locale. They'd arrived just in time for a close miss by Hurricane Ivan.

As ABC showed footage of Fernando's effort to keep his shop in one piece, a surprised couple in New York gaped at the television set in their home. They knew the Giordanos.

As luck would have it, the couple, David and Linda Bakifh, own a winter home in Sun City Vistoso. That's why the Giordanos, now evacuees, are in Oro Valley today.

The Giordanos called Long Island home for two decades before two hijacked commercial jets crashed into the World Trade Center in 2001 and changed the way New Yorkers lived.

After that Sept. 11, a flight out of a nearby airport required arriving four hours in advance. A trip to see a Walt Disney movie with the Giordanos' children, Amanda, 9, and Sofia, 6, required walking through metal detectors and undergoing backpack checks.

Not only that, New Yorkers had a prevailing feeling that they, in general, were targets.

"We were living in a city that sooner or later something was going to happen to," said Adriana, Fernando's wife.

New Orleans seemed cozy in comparison, with its laid-back demeanor and its safe distance from all of the United States' obvious symbols of wealth and power.

And even when Hurricane Ivan flirted with the New Orleans' coast right upon the Giordanos' arrival, it didn't appear to the family that natural disasters would pose much of a threat.

The family simply drove to a hotel in Texas to wait out the storm. The children played in the hot tub, the parents commiserated excitedly with other evacuees, and the long, scenic route back home afforded the family its first ride together on a ferry.

"It was a vacation," Fernando said.

The evacuation party had been exciting, but it also had cost money. So when Hurricane Katrina began threatening New Orleans' coast in late August, the Giordanos decided to stay put for that one.

That's what they were planning to do when their New York friends spotted Fernando boarding up his art supply store on network TV.

"Thanks, but we're fine," was the response that the Bakifhs got when they called the Giordanos on their cell phone and offered to loan them their Sun City Vistoso home.

When a familiar emergency alarm broke the quiet in their home, though, and for once it wasn't a test, the Giordanos realized it was time, once again, to travel to Texas.

After moving their valuables to the second floor, the family members set out for Houston. They left at 3 p.m. Sunday and arrived there exhausted 15 long hours later.

As Giordanos sat on beds watching television from their hotel room, it began to dawn on them that they would not be back in their own beds within days, or within weeks. It was months, in fact, before they moved back to New Orleans, if they ever did.

Instead of taking the scenic route back home, complete with a ferry, the family packed up again and headed for Tucson. They wondered why they hadn't chosen a different state to seek safety in a year ago - someplace like Los Angeles - but thought darkly that with their luck it wouldn't have made a difference.

"They're lucky we didn't move over there," Adriana said. "If we did," she said, trailing off. If they did, the city might be in the ocean, she thought.

When the Giordanos arrived at their friends' home in Sun City Vistoso, four days later, the hospitality was palpable.

There were cards on the dining room table from neighbors who knew they were arriving, and the kitchen was stocked with food. A teacher at the children's new school, Painted Sky Elementary School, presented the girls with clothes, school supplies and a big bouquet of flowers.

"They've helped us a lot," Adriana said.

The Giordanos have conferred with neighbors and are expecting their home to have flooding damage up only one or two feet. They think the art supply store, though, which wasn't insured, may have water to its roof.

If or when they return, they don't know what the market will be for art supplies, at least in the foreseeable future.

"People are painting their houses," Fernando said, "not pictures."

The future is full of uncertainties and deep fears, Fernando said, and there's also a deep sense of gratitude in the Giordano family that the hurricane wasn't more personally devastating than it was.

And now the family is holding tight, waiting to see what will happen as the months unfold,

"You learn a lot," Adriana said.

"You learn to move to a place with no hurricanes," Feranado said, jumping in to exhibit the kind of dark humor that gets people through difficult experiences.

But Adriana said a more useful bit of wisdom has has come from the family's difficulty - something the Giordanos will never be without.

"You know who your friends are," she said.

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