SportsLetter Interview: Jeré Longman Talks About His New Book on Louisiana High School Football Post-Katrina
In August of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, one of the most devastated areas was Plaquemines Parish, the southernmost parish of Louisiana. Located where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, Plaquemines Parish is the hub of the region’s vital commercial fishing industry. After Katrina, many of its residents, including its school children, were scattered throughout the nation.
As the community began to regroup post-Katrina, three area schools were combined into South Plaquemines High School. The students on the football team (nicknamed the Hurricanes) had to put aside their past rivalries in order to form a new, cohesive unit. The Hurricanes soon became a symbol of revival in southern Louisiana, even as its players faced myriad challenges: they had no locker-room or home field; their school didn’t have electricity; many lived in sub-standard and crowded FEMA trailers, often without their families.
New York Times reporter Jeré Longman, a Louisiana native, first journeyed to Plaquemines Parish in 2006 to write about the Hurricanes for the newspaper. He returned the following year as the team surged toward the state championship. The title game was played at the Louisiana Superdome, symbol of the chaotic incompetence during and after Hurricane Katrina.
Longman has just published “The Hurricanes: One High School Team’s Homecoming After Katrina” (PublicAffairs; Amazon). The book details the two-year recovery process in Plaquemines Parish, as seen and experienced by the players, the coaches and their families. The result is, at once, heartbreaking and uplifting: it’s “Friday Night Lights” comes to the bayou. Recently, SportsLetter interviewed Longman via telephone from his home in Philadelphia.
— David Davis