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Sports? No, sports had absolutely nothing to do with the Gulf Coast's trying to survive Hurricane Katrina.
Except that while the fifth-ranked LSU football team practiced in Baton Rouge, about 80 miles northwest of New Orleans, the coaches were hollering above the drone of helicopters, 20 in all, dropping off evacuees.
Except the infield of the outdoor track was being used as a heliport 24 hours a day.
Except that the basketball arena, Pete Maravich Assembly Center, had been turned into a two-hooped hospital. Triage was where the band plays during games. Dialysis was where the scorekeepers sit. And pediatrics was where students usually wail. People still lined up outside to get in, though. It's just that they were all on stretchers.
No, sports weren't at all involved, except that the field house next door was a patient ward. And the baseball stadium was an evacuee processing center.
Katrina chaos was everywhere. In the LSU sports information office, student assistant Bill Martin couldn't sleep after volunteering at the Maravich Center, so he decided to urge his friends to help out by e-mailing them about what he'd seen.
Blackhawk helicopters were carrying in victims who'd been stranded on roofs. Buses rolled in from New Orleans.... A lady fell out of her wheelchair and we scrambled to help her up.... A man from New Orleans was badly injured on his head. Five minutes later he was dead. Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms.... A man was rolled in on a stretcher [suffering from] gunshots. A paramedic said a looter needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him.... The auxiliary gym was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.
Martin's friends should have heard the story of his colleague Jason Feirman. He was stranded on I-10, near the police roadblock 20 minutes outside New Orleans, when a displaced and distraught woman snapped and walked straight into traffic. Feirman jumped out of his car, sprinted down the highway, grabbed the woman and dragged her to the shoulder.
It was a week none will forget, much as they would like to. The Tigers' starting quarterback, sophomore JaMarcus Russell, had a lot on his mind too--the team's game this Saturday night against Arizona State and the 22 displaced people in his three-bedroom apartment. The guy sleeping on his couch? Fats Domino.
Domino, the R&B icon who'd been listed in the papers as missing for two days, is the granddad of Russell's girlfriend, Chantel Brimmer. After the levees gave way in New Orleans, Domino was trapped on the second floor of his house. He was rescued by boat and taken to the makeshift hospital at the Maravich Center. Russell happened to be volunteering there that night--as so many LSU athletes were--bumped into Domino and took him home.