FROM THE CHEAP SEATS | Denham Springs’ healing process may have begun with 77 seconds of silence

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St. Michael the Archangel runners show messages of support for Remy Hidalgo before Saturday’s Denham Springs’ Yellow Jacket Dash on Saturday at North Park.

DENHAM SPRINGS – Sometimes silence can speak volumes.

In this case, 77 seconds of it was powerful.

Think about it, 12 teams and spectators lined up for the start of Denham Springs’ Yellow Jacket Dash, and before it began the only sound to be heard was that of raindrops hitting the grass at North Park.

It was all for Remy Hidalgo, the Denham Springs High junior football player who wore No. 77. He suffered a heat stroke near the end of practice Tuesday and collapsed. He remained hospitalized until passing away Friday morning.

Parish schools Walker and Live Oak were in the field for the meet, and the fact that those schools have done their part to support Denham Springs High and Hidalgo’s family during this time goes without saying. All one has to do is check social media to know that every school in Livingston Parish has done the same thing.

That part’s not surprising considering it’s what people in Livingston Parish do when a community needs help.

“I thought it was really awesome for them to do that moment of silence at the beginning,” Live Oak cross country coach Travis Johnson said. “Our hearts go out to them, their whole school, the whole family.”

But there’s a bigger picture here, and it goes well beyond the borders of Livingston Parish.

Take another look at social media, and Hidalgo’s death is doing something that sports sometimes has a tendency to do – it’s bringing people together.

Tributes for Hidalgo and well-wishes for his family are all over social media from schools and athletes around the state, and it wasn’t any different at Saturday’s race with members of the St. Michael team writing messages of support on their arms.

Denham Springs cross country coach Andy McLean, a 2005 DSHS graduate who said a classmate of his passed away while he was in high school, may have summed up the way Hidalgo’s death has impacted a lot of people, many of whom likely didn’t know him.

“I didn’t know Remy,” he said. “I didn’t have him in my class, but just the atmosphere that he’s created and the response and the feedback — it’s a broken positivity of ‘I can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t believe my best friend’s gone. I can’t believe the teddy bear is gone. I wish I could laugh with you again.’ It’s a hard thing to go through at 16.”

Indeed it is, and this group of high-schoolers has been through a lot — the Great Flood of 2016, COVID-19, and now this. It’s certainly not the way any likely envisioned things going, but life has a way of testing us sometimes – sometimes more than we’d like.

Before starting Saturday’s race, McLean told those at the start line that 77 seconds of silence would seem like a long time, and maybe for some it was. But maybe for others it was literally the calm before the storm that were the varsity races.

Denham Springs’ Brennan Amato finished sixth to lead the Yellow Jackets in the boys race, making a final push on one of the course’s final turns before the finish. He said Hidalgo was on his mind during the race.

“I was trying to do it for him,” Amato said. “It’s sad. It’s tragic.”

Saturday’s moment of silence may have also been the first step in beginning a healing process of sorts.

“You never want to go through those things,” McLean said. “You never want to see your students go through those types of things. We take life for granted. We go through routines. It’s a very human element of it. One moment you’re practicing with somebody. One moment you’re in class with somebody, and the next moment, they’re gone. We just want to take as much time as we can to help our kids work through this and to honor Remy.”

There’s no doubt the healing will take some time, but Saturday, it may have started with 77 seconds.

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