By Bob Starkey, Assistant Coach
I’ve tried to write this for the past few weeks but it hasn’t been easy.
Louisiana was my home for 25 years.
When I left I said that often those on the outside think that the landmarks of The Boot are the stately Oaks, the amazing cuisine of creole cooking, Mardi Gras parades, and Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night. But it’s not.
It’s the people.
For a quarter of century these people have had a tremendous impact on who I am and what I’ve become. They are a resilient people.
As former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens wrote: “Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience.”
These are the people of Louisiana.
While the spirit of the state can be seen in so many places, never does it rise higher than battling Mother Nature. During my 25 years of residency the state has had over a dozen Hurricanes hit its shores including Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina. And unless you are there to see it, live it, and fight it, you truly never understand all that it entails. The loss of property and loss of life are followed by long, extended periods of rebuilding. It was estimated that the New Orleans area would take 20 years to return to its former self and yet there are still pockets of communities that never rebounded.
Last month, a tragedy like no other hit the state and it is remarkable in that it had no name. It was not the result of a Hurricane of even a tropical depression, but the “1,000 year storm” dumped 30 inches of rain in large sections of Louisiana over a seven day period.
Putting it in perspective, Watson, Louisiana received 31 inches of rain during that seven day period, which was two inches more rain than what Los Angeles has gotten in the past four years combined. The unnamed storm dropped 7.1 trillion gallons of water on Louisiana, which pales in comparison to the 2.3 trillion from Hurricane Katrina.
These numbers are staggering, but the impact changes when the people effected are your friends and families. My friends and family that lost their homes, automobiles and family treasures that can’t be replaced. Their children are without schools to attend. The images are heartbreaking. The conversations are numbing.
Many stayed with their homes until the very last minute. Some had to be rescued by boat. Then they had to wait for the water to subside, in some cases more than a week before even finding out how high the water has risen in their houses. Then they went to work gutting out their houses. Removing flooring, walls, cabinets, even ceilings.
Rebuilds are slow – a snail’s pace. There is always a shortage of materials and labor to handle such a massive operation. After all, over 40,000 homes were damaged – over 40,000!
Let me tell you about my friends and family. They were ready when the waters subsided to charge back into their homes and begin rebuilding. There is a work ethic among them. My friends and family that weren’t effected directly have become hardcore volunteers.
As a coach, you tend to look at life as a team. Does your “team” have the elements it needs to succeed? Things like work ethic, sacrifice, humility, leadership – yes, I believe these are important for all kinds of “teams” including communities.
I love what Vince Lombardi said about the third ingredient:”There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you’re going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care of one another. You’ve got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next. The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other.”
The stories I’ve heard from family and friends or viewed from news reports speak to all that is great about Louisiana and is what makes America great – in times of difficulty we are there for each other.
While the news cycle has long left the devastated communities please don’t forget the battle that is just beginning for all as they work to put their homes and lives back together…it will be a long and often painful journey. I ask you to please keep them in your prayers and challenge you to look for ways to contribute.
It is often said that it’s not how heavy the load is. It’s how you carry it. And it’s easier to carry with help. I’ll close with one more quote from Lombardi:“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the complex problems of modern society.”