Surviving the storm

Chaz Washington doesn't know how to feel.
On one hand he feels truly blessed his home wasn't destroyed or flooded when Hurricane Katrina ravaged through Destrehan, La., which is just 10 miles west of the New Orleans International Airport. On the other, he's seen with his own eyes the destruction the storm left and knows that things have been forever changed.
"My family's prayers saved our house," said Washington, a three-star defensive tackle that is ranked as the No. 14 player in Louisiana.
"We went to Houston to get away from the storm and stayed with some family. We were spending time with them, and we went to a few amusement parks to take our mind off of the storm. But in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think about what might be happening back home."
After days of waiting and worrying, Washington and his family returned home this past weekend and found that their house was relatively undamaged.
"We got a little damage," he said. "I think we're going to have to repair our roof, and that's about it, but every where around us you can see the devastation for yourself. A lot of people still don't have water, power or even a home to live in."
Washington said though his house is in pretty good shape, his family has had to remain on guard for looters that have been making their way out of New Orleans.
"It's still really hectic around here because there are all kinds of looters that keep coming from New Orleans," Washington said. "We're just hoping our prayers continue to protect the house, and in case that doesn't work we also have two pit bulls that seem to help a lot."
Washington's family didn't go totally unscathed, though. He said his cousin lost his house in New Orleans and that cousin is still searching for a son that got separated during the evacuation. He's also not heard from teammate and fellow blue-chip recruit Jai Eugene in several days.
There are small signs of life returning back to normal, though.
"I got a call from my defensive coordinator and he said we're going to practice for the first time tomorrow at 3 p.m., and we're going to be heading back to school on Monday," Washington said. "It's not going to be that hard to think about football. Football is going to be my escape. It's going to keep me from thinking about all the devastation."
As he was talking about football starting again, Washington paused for a second.
"We lost a couple of teams, and they're trying to find us some games before we play district," Washington said. "We lost O.P Walker, Reed and Carver from the schedule. Man… I was just thinking about us practicing again, and then I thought about all those guys that won't get to do that any time soon."
Washington said he's willing to open up the door to anybody from the area to come live in his home and join the Destrehan team.
"I've heard rumors that we might get some of the guys from O.P. Walker or a few of the other teams," he said. "We really don't have enough jerseys to take in too many people, but I know I'd allow anybody that wanted to, to come live with me. We have room here, and I'm willing to let a player come live in my house.
"We have to rally around each other and not let this thing beat us. If football is one way that we can come together then tell anybody they're welcome to stay with me."