Martin's e-mail touches lives around the world

Bill Martin encountered a life-altering experience last Tuesday night.

Martin, 23, has worked in LSU Sports Information since he came to LSU from Barbe High School in Lake Charles. Since he came to Baton Rouge, he has worked with a football program that has won two SEC titles and a national championship.

But last Tuesday, Martin's life changed forever.

While working in the SID office the night after Hurricane Katrina struck southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, Martin was told to print off copies of disaster forms to be distributed to victims being treated in the triage unit setup in the Pete Maravich Center.

When he had completed his task, Martin accompanied LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette to the PMAC to disperse the copies.

In the hours that followed, Martin experienced the aftermath of the United State's most devastating natural disaster. For the next several hours, the LSU Communication Studies senior assisted in the arrival of the most severe injuries from Katrina's wrath.

For over six hours Martin, along with LSU coaches Les Miles, Jimbo Fisher, Stacey Searles and Tommy Moffitt among others, witnessed firsthand the power of this disaster.

Upon returning to his office around 3 a.m. early Wednesday, Martin, overwhelmed with what he just encountered, shot out an e-mail to approximately 10 of his former SID pals giving a firsthand account of what he experienced. Needless to say, the word got around – quickly.

When Martin woke up later Wednesday morning, he was shocked at what he found.

"My e-mail inbox was flooded with responses with people from across the country," Martin said.

When asked did expect that kind of response, Martin said no.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I had tons of e-mails from people I didn't even know. Athletics directors and SID's from everywhere."

Martin said he was taken back at first to respond to everyone.

"I was reluctant at first, then I figured it out," he said. "This e-mail paints a vivid picture and gave people their first real perspective of what's going on."

In Martin's account, he details some rather graphic details that some officials might have rather he omitted. But Martin said he has not heard otherwise.

"At first, I was a little worried," Martin said. "But I thought about it and it was intended for eight or so people. It was my personal thoughts. But after talking with Michael (Bonnette), he embraced it because it opened people's eyes that our athletic community is getting involved with the recovery efforts."

Martin may have targeted a small number of friends, but his message reached, not only other states, but across the ocean. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) in London has contacted Martin for a number of interviews. However, the most important e-mail Martin received was from his mother, a deprtment head of music at McNeese State Universty in Lake Charles.

"Dad and I have always been proud of your accomplishments and ability to fight through adversity," she wrote. "I am proud of you now – and your heart."

The following is the actual e-mail Martin sent out last Wednesday morning:

"Little did I know what I would be doing following Hurricane Katrina's aftermath but as I type right now, there won't be a more gratifying or more surreal experience I went through tonight. We went up to the office today and held a press conference regarding the postponement of the game and it was the right decision. As the PMAC and Field House are being used as shelters we decided as an office to do everything we could to help the situation.

At first, we were just supposed to make copies of this disaster relief form for all of the people. The copiers will never print a document more important than that. It's weird. Nearly 12 hours ago we were running off copies of game notes for a football game that is now meaningless. We printed the copies and carried them over to the Field House at 6:30 p.m. I wouldn't leave the area for another 8 hours.

On the way back to the PMAC in a cart, it looked like the scene in the movie Outbreak. FEMA officials, U.S. Marshalls, National Guard, and of course the survivors. Black Hawks were carrying in victims who were stranded on roofs. Buses rolled in from N.O. with other survivors. As (LSU SID) Michael (Bonnette) and I rode back to the PMAC, a lady fell out of her wheelchair and we scrambled to help her up.

We met coach (Les) Miles and coach (Tommy) Moffiit in the PMAC to see all the survivors and it was the view of a hospital. Stretchers rolled in constantly and for the first time in my life I saw someone die right in front of me. A man rolled in from New Orleans and was badly injured on his head. Five minutes later he was dead. And that was the scene all night. What did we do? We started hauling in supplies. And thousands of boxes of supplies. The CDC from Atlanta arrived directing us what to do.

One of the U.S. Marshals was on hand so the supplies could not become loot. I asked him what his primary job was. He serves on the committee of counter terrorism, but once he saw of the disaster, he donated his forces to come help. He said the death toll could be nearing 10,000. It was sickening to hear that.

After unloading supplies, I started putting together baby cribs and then IV poles. Several of our football players and (Glen) Big Baby (Davis) and Tasmin Mitchell (basketball players) helped us. At the same time, families and people strolled in. Mothers were giving berth in the locker rooms. The auxiliary gym "Dungeon" was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.

I worked from 8 pm until 2:45 am. Before I left three more buses rolled in and they were almost out of room. People were standing outside, the lowest of the low from NO. The smells, the sights were hard to take.

A man lying down on a cot asked me to come see him. He said,"I just need someone to talk to, to tell my story because I have nobody and nothing left. He turned out to be a retired military veteran. His story was what everybody was saying. He thought he survived the worst, woke up this morning and the levees broke. Within minutes water rushed into his house. He climbed to the attic, smashed his way through the roof and sat there for hours. He was completely sunburned and exhausted. Nearly 12 hours later a chopper rescued him and here he was.

We finished the night hauling boxes of body bags and more were on the way. As we left, a man was strolled in on a stretcher and scarily enough he suffered gunshots. The paramedic said he was shot several times because a looter or a convict needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him. Another man with him said it was "an uncivilized society no better than Iraq down there right now." A few minutes later he was unconcious and later pronounced dead. I then left as they were strolling a three-year-old kid in on a stretcher. I couldn't take it anymore.

That was the scene at the PMAC and it gives me a new perspective on things. For those of you who I haven't been able to get in touch with because of phone service, I pray you are safe. Send me an email to let me know. God bless."

Bill Martin

LSU Sports Information

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