Growing up through adversity as a child can be disorienting and scary, but witnessing the same adversity as an adult is even more difficult, especially being isolated from those impacted the most. Robert Lestrick, a Concordia from New Orleans, Louisiana shares the mental anxiety he went through as someone from New Orleans while away in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Lestrick was recruited back in New Orleans and decided to come to Concordia College to explore a different part of the U.S., play football and pursue computer science.
Lestrick’s home is on the far west side of New Orleans. This section was not hit as hard by Hurricane Ida’s devastation as other parts of the city, like the French Quarter neighborhood, or other parts of the state, like LaPlace, both of which were underwater.
Lestrick was just five years old when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005. Luckily, his family was able to evacuate and leave for Atlanta, Georgia, where many of his extended family and cousins live. During that time, Katrina was significantly worse because of flooding and levees breaking.
“My family told me that we have to leave for a while. I did not really understand what was going on at that time but I know I had to start school out there in Atlanta. It was like restarting a life in a sense,” Lestrick said.
Noble Scott, a senior student majoring in finance from LaPlace also had most of his neighborhood flooded during the hurricane while he was away in Minnesota. Scott’s family did manage to leave LaPlace a few hours before the storm hit the town, leaving behind their house and belongings to seek shelter elsewhere.
“It was just on my mind a lot because it was my first time being away from home and something like this happened but I always try to focus on the positive things like making sure they are OK first,” Scott said.
Lestrick saw his own childhood experience during Katrina happening to his younger sisters, who also evacuated to Atlanta to take shelter and escape the hurricane’s effects.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ida was upgraded from Category 2 to Category 4 within just a few hours on Sunday, Aug. 29, which also marked the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
“We thought it is going to be a typical tropical storm and my family said we can just stay throughout and two days before the storm, but when they said it is going to be a Category 4 hurricane, and the whole city started evacuating which caused a lot of traffic jam in the city,” Lestrick said.
Lestrick could not be with his family because he had a football game at that time. He went home shortly after the hurricane happened as he admits that it is always difficult to have a clear mind while being away from his family.
“It was a really tough week that I tried my hardest to push through it. Especially with the football game and my family situation. It was just hard staying present knowing that my house might be gone, all the memories, all the childhood pictures might be underwater,” Lestrick reflected.
Football assistant coach Kyle Bakken said that a simple gesture such as putting arms around him and asking him how he is doing helps a ton to relieve stress to assure his athlete that someone does care about what he is going through.
“I recruited Rob to come and play here. For me, I look at it as a mentor-parent type of relationship because we do spend a lot of time together,” Bakken said.
For Bakken, giving parental guidance to students when they are away from home is extremely crucial in Concordia’s pedagogy that ensures students’ mental and physical health is top priority. Bakken’s conversation with Lestrick and a lot of his student-athletes is also important because it places everything into perspective to pinpoint what is important.
“For someone like Rob or any young adult, you might feel guilty that you are away from home and not helping mom or dad, but you also have to make sure that you are taking care of yourself because that’s what parents want after all,” Bakken said.
Lestrick still did whatever he could to help out, such as sending gas money to his family to help out on the ride for Atlanta in addition to working, playing football and being a full-time student.