The last thing I would call it was a sentimental journey. Four days after the historic flood waters started to recede in 2016, I ventured out for the first time.
Predictably, I drove toward high schools that I heard had been damaged and past others whose level of damage I was unsure of. I had no idea what I would find. How would badly damaged schools like Denham Springs, St. Amant and Glen Oaks — just to name three — function, let alone field sports teams?
What unfolded was the most terrific triumph of the human spirit I have personally witnessed by high school athletes. Was it comparable to hurricane-induced disasters? I will leave that for others to judge. All I can do is recount what I saw.
And I saw plenty. On that first drive, debris was already everywhere and from the road you can see the shells of houses abandoned out of necessity. Cars sat in random locations they were carried by the rising waters.
Let me preface this by saying, we were among the lucky ones. Our home did not flood, but plenty around us did. Cell phone service was spotty. I would get a text and a few brief phone calls that quickly dropped.
As cell phone service was restored I started hearing from family and my extended family, coaches and administrators. I felt relief when there was good news and anguish when I heard the gut-wrenching stories of loss. Trust me, I had some names for this flood with none of them were nice.
Within a few days other images emerged. High school athletes and coaches were involved in rescuing people from flooded homes. Athletes also were organized by their coaches to help teammates, relatives and teachers/classmates by removing debris and gutting houses.
Soon it became an outreach that crossed every imaginable line.
Coaches began taking their players to nearby neighborhoods, looking to pitch in and lend a hand where ever they could. Public and private schools were engaged in the effort. The teams took requests for help and ventured into outlying areas.
There also were groups that worked in shelters — some at their own schools. Several schools opened their doors and teamed with local businesses to provide meals for families in various communities.
Soon enough, practices started up and the games began, though some schools started their seasons late. Many great stories about triumph over tragedy emerged during the 2016-17 school year, including Central High winning improbable Class 5A baseball and softball titles nine months after many team members had to leave their flood-ravaged homes.
This weekend marks the two-year anniversary of the flood. Images of devastation are etched in our memories. But never forget the kindness and heart of the athletes and coaches who rushed into help.
Were the coaches trying to teach their athletes lessons about humility and life? Absolutely. These are kinds of lessons we all need to heed every day.