Benefield: In echoes of Katrina, words of hope for Middletown

  • Former Holy Cross football players from the time of Hurricane Katrina sing the Holy Cross school song after a double overtime 28-21 win against Jesuit at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

Three pairs of shorts, three shirts and three pairs of underwear.

“That’s all I had,” said Cass Hargis.

Hargis was a 17-year-old high school senior and captain of the Holy Cross High School football team in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina drowned his family home just outside of New Orleans, drowned his school in the Lower Ninth Ward and drowned just about everything he owned in this world.

So when I called Hargis in Gentilly, La., last week and told him about the deadly Valley fire in Lake County and asked if I could talk to him about recovery and rebuilding after tragedy, he paused.

“We know a thing or two about that,” he said.

I asked Hargis, now the baseball coach at his alma mater, if he had any advice for the students at Middletown, scores of whom lost their homes but who made their way back to school last week. He paused again.

“They are not alone. At all,” he said.

And then he said something else.

“It gets better,” he said. “At some point, they’re going to look back at this time in life and almost be grateful. It opens your eyes, shows you what is important and what is really not.”

Hargis and his younger brother played football for Holy Cross, an all-boys Catholic school founded in 1879.

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