By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Aug. 31 2005

Marshall Faulk isn't getting much sleep these days. During the day, the Rams
running back finds his mind drifting back and forth between football and his
hometown of New Orleans, where several relatives remain unaccounted for in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"My mom's OK," Faulk said Wednesday. "One of my brothers is fine. I just
haven't heard from my other brothers and the rest of my family. My aunts,
uncles, cousins. I haven't heard from anyone."

Faulk's mother, Cecile, has been the driving force in his life.

"My mom's one of those people that believes in riding it out," Faulk said.

But this time, she left her home northeast of downtown New Orleans with one of
Faulk's five brothers.

"They drove out to Texas, and probably just missed (the hurricane)," Faulk
said. "I talked to her Sunday, and she was just adamant about staying. She
decided to go. I finally talked to her (Tuesday) afternoon.

"I never heard my mom cry. I never heard her upset about anything pertaining to
something like a house or her friends or her family. She's pretty mild-tempered
about things like that."

Not this time.

"She was very upset - very upset - and just heartbroken and devastated about
the whole ordeal," Faulk said.

Since the hurricane hit, Faulk has been riveted to coverage of the disaster.

"The past couple of days, that's all I've been able to do," he said before
Wednesday's practice at Rams Park. "Everywhere you turn, whether it's the
newspaper or every TV channel you turn on - even if it's ESPN - they're
reporting about it. You just can't get away from it, and you have to deal with
it. Hopefully, being around here is a way to get away from it."

Seeing pictures and television footage of the devastation in New Orleans has
been particularly wrenching.

"I couldn't tell what part was which," Faulk said. "Growing up down there - and
it's not a big city - I'm pretty familiar with it all. With all the water, you
just couldn't tell parts apart from another.

"People are going into survivor mode. They're calling it looting, and I'm
saying it's surviving. What's a store with food in it if you don't have food?
What's a store with fresh water if you don't have water? What are you supposed
to do?"

Right now, there's not much Faulk can do. He can't reach any of his missing
friends and relatives in New Orleans. He's not sure of their whereabouts or if
they took refuge in the Louisiana Superdome.

"I have no idea," Faulk said. "I have no idea of finding out. And anyone else
who has family down there has no idea of finding out. There's nothing down
there, basically. There's no phone line. There's no power, no water, no
nothing. ... I'm just hoping that everybody got somewhere safe."

It's a particularly distressing feeling for Faulk, because normally he's the
one who gets the phone calls for help when something goes wrong in his family.

Faulk was late arriving at Rams Park on Wednesday morning, and those who spoke
to him early in the day said he was so out of it, he could barely put words
together.

"He's very distracted," coach Mike Martz said following Wednesday's practice.
"He was up all night. ... They can't find two brothers. There's no
communication with them. They're worried sick about them. So it's a very
difficult time for Marshall right now."

Faulk said severe storms, the threat of hurricanes and even hurricanes
themselves were considered a part of life growing up in New Orleans.

"I think as a kid, I never really understood the magnitude of a hurricane and
what it could do," Faulk said. "And never experienced a really, really bad one.
It was just, 'OK, it rained, it stormed, it flooded - whatever.' ... I just
never thought something like this could happen."