Masters decathlete fears loss of home near New Orleans
New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast are home to many masters track athletes, and their current ordeal is beyond belief. With the power out to many places, it’s hard to make contact with these folks. But I was able to touch base with Robert Baker, an M60 decathlete who just returned from San Sebastian worlds. He has given me permission to post his heart-rending description of his plight, which includes the possible loss of his home.
It is dark outside and I don’t want to turn on the TV. I just can’t witness the end of life as I know it any more right now. Perhaps later but not now. It’s just too painful. I can take the pain of pulled and torn muscles, or aching joints, but this hits too deep, at the heart and soul areas. My wife also arose early and she was just wondering out loud if some of her friends were still alive.
I’m back from where I started, but in how many ways I don’t know. My wife, daughter and I are at my parents’ home on the side of Hwy 84 in DeSoto Parish about 40 miles south of Shreveport. We are more fortunate than most in that thousands don’t have any place to go.
My home in Metairie, LA (suburb of New Orleans) is probably under 8 or 9 feet of water. Even if it has not flooded or sustained damage, what is there to return to in there foreseeable future? It would be weeks before we could return, and the is no certainty that basic services or goods would be available. Even if they are, nothing will ever be the same again. I don’t even know if my job will be available in the future.
I learned much about track and field running and jumping in cow pastures. Since becoming a decathlete, I spent many, many hours practicing at the city park track adjacent to Tad Gormley Stadium (site of the 1992 Olympic track and Field trials). I saw an overhead shot of the stadium on CNN last night and it looks like a river running through it. We had finally gotten a decent vaulting pit at the city park track, but I imagine that is now gone. Looks like I’ll be running again in cow pastures. I guess that will have to do. It’ll have to. As long as I can run I know I’ll be okay.
I’m not sure if all this stream of consciousness is making sense. My head is not clear yet. We had just arrived in New Orleans at 7 p.m. Saturday after a grueling trip from the WMA games in San Sebastian, Spain. We got a little sleep, boarded up the house and packed, then took off for north Louisiana am 1 p.m. Sunday,and arrived at 5 a.m. the next day. In track and field, I normally recover fast from vigorous physical activity, but this is different.
Training for and participating in decathlons has taught me to be resourceful in to new challenges, so I hope it helps with these new life circumstances. Right now doing a decathlon seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world.
My hope is that others in the stricken areas provide news of their situations. Let your track friends know you are OK. Or whether you need special help. Masters pull for each other and support each other. Let’s pray for our friends down South.