Aweek ago, Sally Mooney, a New Orleans college professor, contributed an article to Outlook in which she mentioned a friend who refused her pleas to leave the city before Hurricane Katrina hit. Last week, the missing friend, Catherine Loomis, turned up -- frightened, but fine.

Loomis, an associate professor of English at the University of New Orleans, stayed behind with her cats during the storm, fortified by supplies of food and water she had set aside beforehand. By last Sunday, though, she was ready to leave so she heeded instructions to hang a sheet outside her house for help in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. No one came for her.

That night, she heard a series of shotgun blasts -- three at a time, then a pause -- as intruders blew open the doors of nearby houses. Frightened, she reached out her window with a flashlight, pointed it at the sky and clicked it on and off in the S.O.S. pattern she learned as a Girl Scout. A Coast Guard helicopter crew saw the blinking light (though they later said they didn't make out the distress pattern) and David Foreman, a member of the Coast Guard, rappelled down to rescue Loomis from her balcony.

Loomis was dropped at the New Orleans airport, where she received medical attention, and then flown to North Carolina, where she joined evacuees at the old Charlotte Hornets arena. She's now in Rochester, N.Y., at her mother's.

Reflecting on the chaos, the English professor recalled the Langston Hughes poem that begins, "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun." The last line asks "Or does it explode?" After New Orleans, Loomis answered, "Yes, it does."

-- The Outlook staff