The weeks and months after the Great Flood of 2016 brought seemingly countless reminders that many aspects of life in Livingston Parish had changed forever.
Homes, schools, business places, government offices and churches all suffered damage, and left little more than memories of what they meant to the community.
Most recently, the Watson community lost perhaps its greatest icon. Unlike the scores of flood-related losses, the landmark tree at Live Oak High School met its demise a different way from the aging process.
It didn’t make the situation better, and it came with heavy hearts last week when the Livingston Parish School Board announced that the live oak which served as the namesake for Live Oak High School would have to come down.
The decision boiled down to safety. Imagine the tragedy if a group of children stood under a tree when a limb crashed upon them.
The tree, approximately 200 years old, suffered from decay and numerous lightning strikes over the years. The Livingston Parish School Board shelled out thousands of dollars to save the tree, but to no avail.
Imagine “at least” 200 years. Louisiana was adjusting to its admission into the Union. Judging from the estimated age, James Monroe – the nation’s fifth president – was in office at the time.
Turn the calendar much further ahead, and the tree served as a gathering spot. Some may have played around it, maybe sat to study, and some boys and girls may have had their first kiss under that tree.
Most of all, it was the symbol of the community. To see it go down is akin to seeing the demolition of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Wrigley Field in Chicago or the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
In the case of the tree, we can’t blame the School Board, we can’t cite neglect, nor can we prove its demise was avoidable. The term which comes to mind for this writer coincides with the title of ex-Beatle George Harrison’s first solo album, “All Things Must Pass,” which – quite fittingly, in this case – also had a single entitled “Isn’t It a Pity.”
It’s truly a sad sight to see an iconic image fall into the past, particularly one which represented the very namesake of the school.
Plans are in the works to plant another tree later in the year. It will never take the place of what existed on that site – nor should anyone expect that notion Instead, it marks another beginning and a form of progression, much in the same way we embrace a birth after the death of a loved one.
The demise of the tree represented the simple meaning of life. As we remember with the loss of over living beings, there’s no guarantee of a tomorrow. Once it’s time to go, there’s no turning back – it’s the contract we all sign with life.
It’s impossible to wax positively on the loss of an icon, but we should keep in mind it was not the flood that brought down the iconic tree. Instead, the tree died from old age. It’s a sign of normalcy, proof that some things go without the ravages of nature.
The flood may have taken away many other landmarks and keepsakes in Livingston and other parishes, but it did not destroy the tree. The time had come, unfortunately, and there was no chance to save it.
The tree is gone, but not the memories or the meaning it had to the community. It will always have its place in the history of Watson and, most notably, Live Oak High School.