Some of the most poignant reporting I’ve heard on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina comes from ESPN writer Wright Thompson, who has done a feature story for ESPN the Magazine on Katrina ten years later called “Beyond the Breach”. Thompson was interviewed by WBUR host Lynn Mullins on Here and Now, where he tells about a handful of people he encountered during the several weeks he spent working on the story.
I came away moved by more than one thing, but what I can’t shake is the story of Steve Gleason, former New Orleans Saints player who is best known to the uninitiated because of a single play. It was the Saints’ first night back in the Superdome after Katrina, and Gleason famously “stretched out his arms and blocked a punt in the opening series of a Monday Night Football game”. A nine-foot statue now stands in front of the Superdome, Gleason’s former “office,” as he calls it, to commemorate this play. Fast forward to the present, where Gleason is paralyzed in a wheelchair, suffering the crippling effects of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Knowing his days are numbered, Gleason has recorded hundreds of short videos for his almost four-year-old son, Rivers. The topics range from how to tie your shoes to how to change a flat tire — it seems he has thought of just about everything Rivers will need to know on the road to manhood. How will this son ever be able to doubt that he had a father who loved him?
It seems Gleason feels similarly about his city. He was recently one of several individuals who were asked to write a love letter to the city of New Orleans on the tenth anniversary of the storm. After composing the letter, he cannot get through reading it without weeping. Although originally from Spokane, WA, he has owned the City of New Orleans as if he were born there.
Gleason will likely not live to see the rebirth of NOLA in its fullest, but he is not about to go out without hope. The T-shirts for his foundation, TEAM Gleason, say “No white flags.”
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7
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