Steve Gleason is forever synonymous with the New Orleans Saints, and will always hold a special place in our hearts because of his amazing journey. This column is all about the unbreakable character that we can all take a lesson from.
First, some context.
September 25th, 2006
A black curtain loomed over the Superdome entrance, adorned with the unmistakable fleur-de-lis in the center. Thousands of fans waited outside with baited breath to return to not only to their old football stadium, but the return of the status quo.
The re-opening of the then Louisiana Superdome marked more than just fall football, as it signified a city had returned, a region devastated by Hurricane Katrina a year ago. The Superdome, once seen only has a historic venue where unforgettable moments like Muhhamad Ali capturing the heavyweight title, often had a time-share with the lovable losers: the resident New Orleans Saints. It was amazing such different things could occupy the same space.
But in the wake of disaster, the arena provided shelter from the storm. About 9,000 and another 550 National Guardsmen secured themselves inside the stadium on the night of the storm as their beloved city, their home, was torn asunder. The Superdome was built to withstand the strength of storms, but as the night grew darker, the dome’s defenses were chipped at as the outer layer of the roof were ripped away by the winds.
Countless New Orleanians emerged in the aftermath to find their roads turned to rivers and their homes off their foundations. Hundreds of people did not survive, some being swept away by the water, some fending off the rising water by retreating into their attics, praying for help that did not come. Many more were displaced for weeks, months, sometimes years.
A year later, the city had picked itself off the mat and declared that this tragedy would not keep them down for long.
When lives are threatened and the worst parts of reality seep into the rose-tinted glasses of sports, sports invariably take a back seat. So, it is noteworthy that the rallying cry of the city of New Orleans, that the region and people were back, was sang from the now Champions Square in anticipation of a football game.
In the devastation, the overwhelming sentiment was that the Saints would relocate to a more favorable area such as San Antonio. Once people were able to let their mind wander back to football, fans were petrified that the team could be taken away from them as a final death blow from the storm and became disenfranchised with an owner who could pull the trigger on a whim.
Katrina brought with it flooding, destruction, but perhaps it’s most crippling commodity was fear. It put the fear of change in people. Fear that you might have to go on through life without someone taken in the storm, someone who had been with you through your whole life. Fear that things may never return to the way they were, and this new wasteland people found themselves in would be permanent.
A year later, the people and city of New Orleans along with their football team, had survived. And so too, did their way of life.
The banner dropped, revealing a larger Fleur-de-lis, three lines of words and Deuce McAllister, the face of the franchise.
“Our Home. Our Team. Be a Saint.”
Next: A Hero's Journey