Online UpdateOle Miss Athletes Coping With Tragedy

From Staff Reports
The Daily Mississippian

When tragedy struck parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama earlier this week in the form of Hurricane Katrina, millions of residents on the Coast were affected by the devastation. Although Oxford sits some 350 miles from the Mississippi Gulf Coast where the storm made landfall, reverberations were felt in the Ole Miss community.

Three members of the women”s soccer team are natives of Southern Louisiana and Southern Mississippi and were directly affected by the chaos caused by Katrina.

Austin Brown, a freshman from Lucedale, Miss., said the storm hit close to home, both literally and figuratively. Brown”s hometown of Lucedale sits a mere 60 miles from the Coast and she is just now realizing the devastation.

“At first I wasn”t really worried, but when I talked to my mom and she said the storm was starting to get close I got really scared,” Brown said. “The roof of my cousin”s house got completely taken off and we lost a lot of stuff as well, so I was really upset and scared.”

Brown also said he was able to get in touch via the internet with a close friend of hers who lives in Bay St. Louis. Brown said her friend”s house is totally gone and the recovery process will be long and painful.

Another member of the team who was affected by the storm was Leslie Robichaux of Geismar, La. Robichaux said that because the last couple of hurricanes have for the most part missed Louisiana and traveled east that she was not too worried about Katrina. However, after seeing pictures of the aftermath Robichaux realized just how bad the storm had been.

“I was shocked at the damage,” Robichaux said. “I have lots of family down on the bayou and they don”t even know if their houses are still there. They can”t get back to assess the damage and we really don”t know how bad it is yet.”

Robichaux did get word on the town of Venice, where her family has a camp, and the news wasn”t good.

“Venice is completely gone,” Robichaux said. “The area is totally under water and everything is destroyed. I don”t think life will ever be the same in the New Orleans area.”

The third member of the team with ties to the region hit hardest by the storm is Christine Breaux of Gonzales, La.

Breaux was in New Orleans last week before the storm hit and said she could not believe that areas where she was are now completely under water.

“I was amazed by the damage,” said Breaux. “You don”t think something like this could ever happen, but then you see the damage on television and it”s amazing. My uncle lives in Slidell, La., and his home is destroyed.”

“I hope life will eventually return to normal, but I am doubtful because the amount of damage they have to fix.”

— Ty Allushuski

“As everyone knows, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Many Ole Miss students are from the Coast or have family there ” including Ole Miss volleyball player Katie Kramer who calls New Orleans her hometown.

“I talked to my mom today,” Kramer said. “My family [parents and grandmother] have been in Oxford since we played on Saturday. We have another house in the Hattiesburg area, so my brothers went there from New Orleans. Mom and Dad left here Tuesday to go and find my family down there because we could not get in touch with anyone. Mom called me today in English class and I just walked out to talk to her. She told me they had gotten there and my brothers were okay.”

Even getting to Kramer”s brothers was difficult for her parents.

“It took my folks almost eight hours to move the trees out of the way enough to get to the house in Poplarville where my brothers are staying,” Kramer said.

Though all of her relative”s are fine, the status of Kramer”s home is unknown.

“I don”t know about our home in New Orleans, but we lived two blocks from the levee so it”s probably gone,” she said.

Among the things that her family had to deal with were evacuating 70 horses from their stable in New Orleans.

The sophomore is also experiencing the same problems as many others with family on the Coast.

Her family has been having trouble communicating with each other.

“My cell phone is the only one that really works since none of the 504 numbers are really working, so I am acting as the middleman for my family and everyone is communicating through me,” Kramer said.

— Grace Curtis

“Rebel baseball team newcomer Miles Cabecerias, a junior pitcher from Covington, La., said that his family is among those affected by the flooding in and around New Orleans. His family fled to Lafayette, La., before Katrina arrived Monday morning.

“My uncle worked for De La Salle High School and lives in the Lakefront area of the city,” Cabecerias said.

“My grandmother lived by the levee. We think they are underwater from looking at the news footage, but they evacuated to Houston,” he said. “My uncle will be without a job at the high school. They have lost their houses and photos and everything.”

Cabecerias” said his home in Covington, which lies on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, a 40-mile drive from the Crescent City, was spared, though the storm flooded Mandeville, a town just a few miles closer to the lake.

“My uncle on my mother”s side owns an air boat business,” he said.

“The national guard contacted him, and he and his force are out with swamp buggies and air boats helping in the relief effort.”

Despite the material loss, Cabecerias says his family has been lucky, compared to some.

“We have to rebuild from here,” he said. “We”re not sure what will happen, but everyone is okay and no one in my family died or suffered a tragedy like that.”

— Josh Ellis

“Though the Rebels season opener is just days away, a few members of the team will go into the Memphis game with heavy hearts because of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Even head coach Ed Orgeron, who has family from Louisiana, explained several members of the team as well as coaches have been concerned about their families in the battered states.

“They”ve been in contact with their parents, but we are worried about some of the relatives who stayed behind,” he said after Wednesday”s practice. “There is no communication, so it”s hard. That”s all we know right now.”

Freshman Burnell Wallace, who hails from New Orleans, has spent the past few days desperately trying to get in touch with loved ones.

The only person the wide receiver was able to reach was his sister and her children who fled for safety in Dallas.

“You really can”t look past this,” Wallace said. “It”s really hard. I just try to think positive and pray that everybody is alright.”

He also hopes to return home as soon as he can to see the damage the storm caused.

“I”m going to talk to Coach [Orgeron] because as soon as [government officials] let people go home, I”m going home,” Wallace said. “I have to go back home to make sure everything is alright.”

Fellow wide receiver Matt Pierce also resides from the Gulf Coast and has had to deal with the outcome.

Pierce, who lives in Mobile, Ala., is expecting a visit from his parents due to the power outages.

“They stayed as long as they could until they figured they would be without power for a few weeks,” Pierce said.

But with every hurricane season, he said his family just had to roll with the punches.

“With living in Mobile, it”s just something I have had to live with,” the junior said. “We have been through a lot of them.

“Every time a hurricane was on the way, it was board up the windows, get batteries, get the generator out and be prepared for school to be out.”

Brandon Jacobs has also had to take on other house guest since Sunday morning.

The running back from Long Beach has his parents and two brothers staying with him in Oxford while the family tries to get on their feet.

“My family is up here with me,” Jacobs said. “I don”t know how the house is, but we are just praying everything is alright. As long as [my family] is safe, everything is going to be all right.”

Through the tough times, the senior is trying to see the positive side of the ordeal. For example, Jacobs views the upcoming Ole Miss-Memphis game as a release for people.

“I think it is rough on what is going on, and it”s a bad situation,” Jacobs said.

“It”s kind of like the 9-11 situation. We postponed games for that weekend. We have to keep going. I think it”ll be good for people to see [the game] on TV and something to hope for.”

But past that, like Burnell, Jacobs longs to get home.

“Hopefully I have the opportunity to get home,” he said.

“We have a bye next week. I”ve got to try and help my dad. I know ” if the house is still there ” he probably has a lot of work to do down there.”

— Tyler Nelson