Bud's a hero in haven horror
THOUSANDS of kilometres away from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, a Rockhampton couple can get their first sleep in days.
It's been a long week for Diane and Eric Hopes ? possibly their worst.
The Hopes had been on tenterhooks since the hurricane hit New Orleans, waiting desperately for word from their son Bud who was holidaying in the area.
Bud, 32, now of Brisbane, arrived in New Orleans a day before the tragedy struck.
He had been evacuated to the city's Superdome, a socalled safe haven for 25,000 people which went horribly wrong.
Bud's parents could only sit and watch in horror as the dangerous scene flashed across the television. ?
Food and water were scarce, guns were everywhere and violence thrived.
The building was hot and reeked with the smell of human waste.
Watching the images, Mrs Hopes said she felt hopeless.
"In my heart I knew he was alive, but we could see the chaos on the TV and knew the anarchy going on inside,'' she said.
"I don't know how he survived.''
But Bud did more than survive.
The former North Rockhampton High student is now being hailed as a hero by southern media outlets for his role in helping people.
Mrs Hopes understands that Bud went around the stadium rallying Aussies and other tourists together to avoid being targeted as a minority.
He kept the group together, protected the women from would-be rapists, organised rosters to watch people while they were sleeping and kept the group's spirits high.
"We couldn't be prouder of our son.''
After days of danger, Bud and the group of 65 tourists were finally evacuated to a medical centre on Friday and he was now staying at a Dallas hotel.
Speaking briefly with Mrs Hopes on Friday morning, Bud told his mother: "I've seen it all now, Mum. I've seen the rapes, I've seen the bashings, I've seen the shootings. There's nothing in the world I haven't seen now.''
Bud also told his mother not to ask him any questions because he was trying to stay positive and knew he would break down if he had to relive it.
Mrs Hopes said she was just relieved to hear her son was safe.
"I'd give anything to go over there, but that's probably the last thing Bud would want.''
Bud's brother, and partner in a Brisbane modelling agency, Gary, was expected to arrive in the US last night to be by his brother's side.
Mrs Hopes said Bud had been on a round-the-world trip since January and was not expected home until March.
She hoped Bud would continue with his planned holiday to Europe to keep his mind off the events of last week.
The Hopes said they felt anger towards the Australian Government.