Breck family fearing for the unknown |

Breck family fearing for the unknown

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

BRECKENRIDGE Breckenridge resident Carol Roshto-Smith and her two small boys were in New Orleans visiting family just days before Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. They piled into a car with family and drove west to Houston, where they were able to escape most of the devastation Katrina wrought on the area.Her brother, Michael, likely was not so lucky.He is a native of New Orleans like the rest of her family, and as someone who lives in the Jefferson Parish area of the city, he seemingly dodged a bullet when his house was left still standing, and his neighborhood suffered only minimal flooding.But Whitie, as his friends and family affectionately call him, hasnt been heard from since the morning after Katrina blew through town in destructive fashion.A devastated and clearly concerned Carol Roshto-Smith explains that Whities last communication came just after the storm swept through town, from his cell phone. He said, Im OK … the storm has passed. Since last Monday, though, no one has heard from Whitie, and concern is growing that he may have been a victim of the rampant lawlessness, banditry and general chaos that plagued the entire area immediately following the devastating storm.Its just been so long now, Roshto-Smith said, her voice cracking and halting as the weight of the situation seems to envelop her thoughts. He just cant be living down there with no public service or anything else.Adding to the familys concern is the fact that Whitie owns a boat and a truck, and also had mentioned to family and friends that he would dive right in to help out the community he loves in any way he could should a disaster like Katrina ever come about. In the days after Katrina, stories of people rescuing others, and then becoming victims of banditry or other lawlessness, have been reported and are sadly common.(Whitie) always said, If we ever have the big one, and civilians are called to help with rescues, Im getting in the boat and Im going to help, Roshto-Smith said of her brother.As the time passes, a scenario where Whitie went out to help others immediately after the storm, and fell victim amid the lawless aftermath, seems more and more realistic. The fact that he hasnt been able to reach any of his family via satellite phone which is the way most organized rescue groups are communicating with the outside world is troubling.Im clinging to a bit of hope because I realize that even (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is so unorganized and even seems to be working against people. Their communication problems make me think he might be OK, because how would he get word out (if even FEMA cant)?Roshto-Smith has done what she can to get information about her brother from the communicative abyss that New Orleans has become since Katrina ripped the Crescent City apart. She has been in contact with a survivors hotline run by CNN, has constantly checked the CNN website and other missing persons sites for info, and has accessed another missing persons website run by a local New Orleans TV station that has been providing more detailed information. Keeping track of her entire extended family, most of whom have been displaced by the storm, has been a priority as well.After talking with (the Summit Daily), I dont know what my next step is, Roshto-Smith explained. My main goal is just to find someone who maybe has seen (Whitie), maybe on the news. Its really just a waiting game, but (sharing our story) is really the next step for us. I hope that someone will see his picture and maybe recognize him and say, I just saw him in the Astrodome, or, I saw him picking up people with his boat … anything.Desperate as that hope is, it is all Roshto-Smith can hang onto at this point with such a dearth of information emanating from New Orleans.Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 250, or at

For Carol Roshto-Smith and her family, the grief over Whities disappearance has been compounded by a growing feeling of disappointment and anger over how federal authorities handled Katrinas aftermath. Those sentiments continue to grow as the realization that many lives could have been saved possibly even Whities if the worst-case scenario is confirmed if only the federal response had been adequate.Its really important that people know what has happened here, Roshto-Smith said. Yes, Im worried about my brother, but look at all of these poor people who have just been abandoned by their community, their mayor and governor, and particularly by the federal government.She continued, Because we didnt put federal troops on the ground, my brother could be in serious danger. He made it through the storm, and he made it through the flooding, but he may not have made it through the aftermath. And theres one reason (for that) … there were not enough federal troops on the ground.Roshto-Smiths husband, Timothy Smith, echoed her thoughts. Were confused because if you call for a mandatory evacuation, then you have to supply some way for people to evacuate, Smith said. Frankly, I think that on the local, state and federal level, theyve really let a lot of people down.Both Roshto-Smith and Smith expressed frustration that state and federal officials seemingly ignored warnings that the big one was coming to the vulnerable New Orleans area. Roshto-Smith said, The straw that broke our back over the last two days were (officials) acting like they never knew (this was coming). Then the paralyzing grief kind of turns into anger.It didnt have to be this bad, she said.

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