First-year LSU Law student Conrad Richard, a native of Houma, had his life uprooted as Category 4 Hurricane Ida made its deadly path through the Louisiana coast on Sunday.
Despite the devastation brought by the hurricane, many–including Richard–look to LSU football's opener against UCLA as a source of hope.
“Man, I’ll tell you even though a Category 4 hurricane swept through our city, the people down in Houma are as nice as can be,” Richard said. “People are helping one another, passing out food and water, checking in on everyone, making sure everyone’s ok. It feels as if this is kind of one big tailgate. We work hard during the day to clean up, and then at night we get together and have a good time.”
Richard's childhood home resided along a formerly scenic inter–coastal highway that split the southernmost points of the state and the Gulf of Mexico. But after the storm, tall, sturdy oaks once lining the streets to provide shade for fishermen and water sportsmen now lie torn from their roots along the cracked asphalt.
Some oaks didn't land on roads but instead landed between families' living rooms and kitchens. Richard said a nearby neighbor's home had been decimated by one of those trees — a place where Richard went for solace and normalcy in times of trouble.
“Luckily, my family is all okay and our house is in good shape," he said. "However, I would say anywhere from 60 to 70% of Houma needs help. Bad.”
Now, Richard has made it a priority to find a time and place to safely listen from his hometown as the LSU Tigers take on the UCLA Bruins Saturday night.
“We plan on gathering our cars and trucks together and tuning into the radio coverage of the game,” Richard said. “Although we can’t be there, we are creating our own version of Death Valley down in Houma.”
LSU football has remained a constant for the Houma native. Richard recalls the team bringing him happiness, joy and glimpses of humanity as a child. Now, his current situation echoes those same emotions as he's surrounded by the Houma community, all trying to replicate the organized complexity of a Baton Rouge tailgate.
Unfortunately, Richard will not be able to attend this year’s season opener in Pasadena, California, but will stay at home in Houma to offer his support in the rebuilding efforts. He originally had planned on attending the Rose Bowl game but had to “humbly decline" so as not to leave his friends and families alone during their trying times.
Although the 60 minutes of live gameplay broadcasted on the radio will be a limited experience as the Tigers play over 1,800 miles away, Richard believes the event will still be a unifying one. After all, this isn't his first time dealing with mother nature's destruction — he is forced to rebuild once again after witnessing Hurricane Katrina as a child.
“Living in this part of the nation, we have sadly grown accustomed to the atrocities that natural disasters bring year after year," he said, "and simply; we rebuild.”
Business senior Zack Gallagher said that Sept. 4 has been circled on his calendar for months now.
“A Category 4 hurricane will not get in the way of seeing the Tigers play," he said.
Having been from a Tiger-loving, LSU-cheering family, Gallagher said few things could stop him from being at the season opener. He remembers attending his first LSU game at six years old with his dad and said all the awe and excitement he experienced then is still ignited in him now.
“It is go-time now,” Gallagher said. "Louisiana has been in a similar position before with a natural disaster in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated so much of our great state, but now again we are going to show we are resilient as a state.”
Sixteen years after his first taste of SEC football with his father, he is looking to rekindle a similar experience in Pasadena. However, with airline cancelations caused by a city-wide power loss in New Orleans, he is fearful that no amount of itinerary changes will allow him and his family to make it to the golden state.
But, Gallagher said, he is especially looking forward to a Saturday night football game with tens of thousands of his closest friends in Tiger Stadium.
“There is nothing in the world like football to bring up the state of Louisiana," he said.