When I started writing these columns again, I warned you all that I would occasionally use this space for my own thoughts and ramblings. It might seem somewhat premature, but today is going to be one of those days.
I live and go to school in Louisiana. Anyone who pays attention to the news knows that we just suffered through our second very strong hurricane. I live in Baton Rouge, so I haven't experienced any direct catastrophic damage, but here we've not been immune to the forces of Mother Nature. During Katrina, I lost power for nearly three days, and spent a lot of time helping to clean up and care for the survivors and evacuees. All of us breathed a bit of a sigh of relief when we saw Rita heading away from us; not that you wish a hurricane on anyone else, but we'd gotten our fair share, we reasoned. And we didn't take the threat too seriously. So it was that I found myself soaking wet, biking through a rainstorm on Friday afternoon; LSU had not cancelled classes. And so I found myself on Friday night at 7:30, considering what to eat for dinner, when all the lights popped and the apartment went dark. And so it was that I woke up Saturday morning, still with no power, no lights, no air conditioning, no Internet, no way to make hot food, and a raging head cold. So eventually I called Justin, one of the guys in my studio; he lives in an apartment complex next to mine, but he had power. He said, "Sure, come on over, you can plug your laptop in." I lounged on his couch most of the day, nursing my cold and enjoying the air conditioning. Once the hurricane stopped blowing, we called another guy in the studio, and went out to dinner with him and his wife. She offered repeatedly to let me stay with them overnight, or just to come hang out for awhile. Later, when he dropped me off at my still-dark apartment building, Justin made the same offer. Thankfully, my power came on sometime before dawn today, but it's still good to have friends. I knew eventually I was going to have to write about these hurricanes and the impact they've had on life around here, and I debated making this column about how the rough life of drum corps prepares you for life emergencies. But the truth is, all the cold showers and five-minute meals in the world can't prepare you for some of the things I've felt and witnessed in the last month. What helps me, and everyone else here, get through it is the wonderful support of our friends. When Katrina hit, I got calls and instant messages from many people that I hadn't heard from in years. Some friends from Music City Mystique called me out of the blue to make sure I was alive. Messages of concern and support came across the Glassmen alumni network. Rod Owens, Glassmen's tour director, called to check up on me; Brian Hickman e-mailed. Friends I'd marched with from Knoxville, my hometown, contacted me too. Some people even asked after my goldfish, George! He's fine, too. After everyone had reassured themselves that I was still in one piece, a second wave of contacts came with one question: What can I do to help? I made suggestions and hints, and all over the country, people jumped into action. Some donated blood, others money, and many helped in local efforts. Some friends on a message board I post on went above and beyond the call of duty, one collecting more than a hundred small cases of hotel shampoo and soap, another spearheading his company's efforts and donating several large trash bags of stuffed animals besides. I myself gave platelets and spent time helping at the Special Needs Shelter on LSU's campus. All the student organizations on campus are still organizing ways to help, and with the arrival of Rita, we'll do it all again. The citizens of Baton Rouge have willingly accommodated thousands of new neighbors in the form of displaced Louisianans, and the relief workers who are here to help them; many of my friends and neighbors are living in cramped quarters with extra folks. Grocery shopping takes forever. Driving anywhere is murder. But we do it gladly. Someone on a drum corps message board suggested this week that we ought to abolish Division II and III drum corps because they're "not competitive enough." There are many things I could debate about this preposterous notion, but what struck me first and foremost was that this person was making the assumption that drum corps is all about competition. It is about competition -- a little bit -- but it's also about a lot of other things, and one of the most important is the friendships you form, as evidenced by the pouring-out of concern and offers of help and love that I experienced from my corps buddies over the past month. I'm grateful for all my friends. I was grateful for my friends this weekend when I had no power; I was grateful for them after Katrina came and they let me just talk through some of the horrible things I was seeing here; and the entire state of Louisiana (along with Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama) is grateful for our friends across the country and around the world. Rod always taught me that the most special part of drum corps is how so many people come together in the single-minded pursuit of one thing. I'd like to attest personally that that doesn't change just because the season's over and everyone goes home. You want to make friends that will always care about you, no matter what the situation or how much time has passed? Go march drum corps. And from the bottom of my heart, let me just say: Thanks, everybody.
Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at email@example.com.