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Wilmington, North Carolina. No visitors today. Just one: Fran. She's decided to land here, of all places. The meteorologists have been watching the hurricane for days. From its emergence in the middle of the Atlantic until its arrival onshore. For quite a while, it was unclear which direction the hurricane would take. But now North Carolina is being hit for the second time this year. First Hugo; now Fran.

The hurricane sweeps through town at a hundred and ten miles an hour. Wrightsville Beach, the resort town near Wilmington, next morning. Fortunately, the inhabitants and tourists had been evacuated.

This was all right with the students of Emsley Laney High School. Thanks to Fran, the new school year began a week later.

This week is special - Homecoming Week. Originally intended for former students, but they hardly come any more, so the current students celebrate instead. The school band is under stress and so is Gary Alsup, the music teacher.

Rafiq: "Okay, my name is Rafiq Pringle. I'm 17 years old. I attend E.A. Laney High School. I'm a high school senior. My plans are to ... probably into an educational field in music or education."

"Seniors" are what the students in the twelfth, or final grade are called. Gary is not happy with Andrew's timpani playing. Andrew is not happy with the criticism. Gary gets a bit more severe, quietly, though.

Andrew: "My name is Andrew George. I'm in 12th grade. I go to Laney High School and I plan to go to a four-year college and major in music education."

Adam: "I'm Adam Bono. I am 17 years old. I'm a senior in high school right now and I after high school plan to go to a pre-medical school."

End of third period.

Susan: "My name's Susan Shipton. I'm in 12th grade. I'm 17. And I plan to go to East Carolina University and major in music education and minor in physics."

2000 students attend Laney High, which goes from 9th to 12th grade - freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. There's only one longer break to talk and hang around in the school yard - aside from that, just quick breaks to change classrooms. Nothing unusual - the policeman is always here. Apparently, students are occasionally arrested, not only for possession of drugs or weapons, but also for "disorderly conduct" - swearing, for instance. It's 11:30, halfway through the school day. Lunch in the cafeteria costs $1.50 - fast food on paper plates.

The first act of the Homecoming spectacle is about to begin. The contestants for the title of "Homecoming Queen" are introduced. Susan is also one of the candidates.

Last year's queen praises the qualities of the contestants. The excitement among the candidates is mounting. Each one hopes to chosen as the most popular, the most beautiful or whatever. They want to be liked by the audience, which - after all - decides who is queen. Of course, there are also male candidates.

School is over at three thirty. Adam and Andrew on the way to Wrightsville Beach. Adam lives there. Just one day before Hurricane Fran hit, his family had to leave the island, and it's a good thing they did.

Andrew: "I heard it was flooded out here too. Your house got flooded pretty bad?"

Adam: "We just prepared by bringing everything upstairs, 'cause the flooding on the beach was 4 feet high over the whole entire beach where there was no land left.There was a point where there was no island. Everything was just completely covered in water."

In the meantime, 16 days after the storm, things still look pretty wild. This isn't garbage - this is ruined furniture and carpeting, from almost every house. The wooden pier was also hit.

This was operations centre for the relief organizations.

Dan Summers: "My name is Dan Summers. I'm the director of emergency management for New Hanover County."

He and his staff coordinated evacuation of the inhabitants and the tourists and constantly monitored the hurricane's path.

Dan Summers: "And then you see what is of concern here is a very well-defined eye of the storm. And these bands of wind are really ... this edge of the storm right here as it approaches our coastline here really is what our concerns are. That brings the wind, the waves, the storm-surge or the elevation in the ocean level itself, which causes a lot of the damage."

There was damage in the millions to the electrical and phone lines, which are all above ground.

Adam: "When we got back to the house, we didn't have water, power or phones. We got our water back that day, but the, uh ... We didn't get our power back for another week and we didn't get our phones back for another two weeks, about. But it was a big change 'cause it was really hot out. And so there was no air conditioning and ... It was miserable."

Meanwhile, people have come back. Now, negotiations with the insurance companies start.

More than half of the students are bussed to school. The rest drive. You can get your driver's licence at 16. The teacher is drawing little stick men and arrows. How fast does Evil Kneevil have to be going? Susan is having trouble giving her undivided attention to "Advanced Physics". After all, at the end of this period, the names of the "Homecoming Queen finalists" are going to be announced.

Principal: "Good morning, everyone. Here is a message that everyone has been holding their breath and waiting for. The Homecoming Court results are in. The following people were the top winners: Betina James, Sybill McGert, Kristin McKythan, Michel Pucey, Nicole Stukes, Jaida Burin, Jessica Williams. Congratulations, young women. This is a real honour. Please don't come down and ask me who the queen is. I don't know, it's a secret."

Susan: "For Homecoming? Yeah, I was in competition to be on the Court, but I didn't make it. But that's okay. It was just - people would know who you were when you're walking down the hallway. It was just something to do for fun. I don't get upset about it. It would have been nice to win Court. Can't lie about that."

After school, there is noisy chaos all around the building. The band has section rehearsals. Instrumental groups are rehearsing their various parts for the same piece, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath. Very old. Seventies. The cheerleaders practise. They'll be spurring on the football team at the season's first game. With 120 musicians of varying capabilities, you have to expect some wrong notes.

Rafiq: "Could be better. The band department at E.A. Laney could be better. That's all I'm going to say about it."

Andrew: "When you play music, it doesn't matter if everybody - if somebody say it's wrong. It might be wrong to them, but it's not wrong to you, so they can't tell you to stop. It's pretty cool."

Everyone wants to be a cheerleader. Here too, only the best make the team.

A few miles downstream from Wilmington, the Cape Fear River flows into the ocean. Early on, this favourable location made the city an important trading post for goods from the hinterland: rice, tobacco and lumber. The shipbuilding industry was established here. Wharfs were built on the river bank.

In the middle of the nineteenth century Wilmington boomed. There's evidence of the wealth on every corner. These villas were built by a wharf owner on the hills above the river. This way, he could always keep an eye on his workers, so it's said.

No school today. Instead, a little local history. The expert for all things historical: Ed Turberg.

Ed Turberg: "We're now in the heart of Wilmington's historic district. This is where all the shops were. And this is a typical example of one of the store fronts that were built by the Germans who moved here in the 1850s. It's a large first floor with large show windows, stained glass windows up above ; and then the upper storey contained the apartments. When the people made enough money that they could move away from the downtown area, they built houses nearby and then by the early 20th century, the popularity of the suburbs attracted them. And they were along the trolley line that came down to the centre of the city and out as far as Wrightsville Beach."

In the suburbs, we find typical American single dwelling homes, which take up a lot of room. But then, there is a lot of room.

Ed Turberg: "A popular type of house was the kit house, like the house on my right. They were manufactured in Wilmington and they were inexpensive. But they were good quality material and good design. They were very popular with the people here. And they would be delivered to the property and erected at a low cost."

As in so many other places, Wilmington's inner city was dead. Then came revitalization programs, bringing with them bars, boutiques and souvenir shops. But it's still quite nice all the same.

Four o'clock. Once again, the band is working overtime. The first marching band rehearsal is like an army drill. Gary is giving it all he has.

Susan: "Basically, you have no say. You know, you can give a suggestion, but it's basically all up to him what goes on."

Adam: "Although it's supposed to be a democracy society within the school, the school is basically a dictatorship. Nobody has any say within the school system. And in the band somebody has to lead, somebody has to take control of what you're doing there."

Well, and what are they doing there?

Rafiq: "I don't let it bother me. I mean, I am my own person. I don't let people from the outside tell me what I should do, what I should be. What I feel like doing, that's what I do. I don't let other outside forces rule me."

At home, Rafiq is a bit more toned-down. Even without a husband, his mother seems to have Rafiq's upbringing well under control.

Rafiq's mother: "As a single parent, I'm not patting myself on the back, but I think I have done a remarkable job in raising him, as he's not into drugs, he doesn't smoke and he doesn't drink. He tells me where he's going to go and what he's going to do and I expect him to do just that. I don't expect him to veer from the pattern, you know. If you notice, Rafiq wears a beeper. And that beeper is for communication, you know. If I don't know where he is, I will call that beeper number and immediately he calls me back."

Rafiq: "Basically, my mom let me ... she tells me to make my own decisions. She says, "Look, as long as you're successful and you do what you have to do and it's legal, I have the right to make my own decisions."

Rafiq relaxes for half an hour before going out again. Like most of his fellow students, he has a job. He works in a drug store - the others work in supermarkets, hamburger joints or restaurants.

The tension of Homecoming Week is slowly rising. The announcement says that tomorrow, all students are supposed to come dressed up.

Changing classrooms before the 7th period. Jazzband is offered as a normal subject - those who choose it, have it one period every day for the school year. Some students are even in two music courses and play in the band as well. Certainly proof of the good atmosphere.

Andrew: "At school we usually have white people over here, black people over here, the ... people, the ... people, then the band. It's pretty cool. I mean it's like in the band, for example, I don't think ... (inaudible) ... getting along with each other."

Susan comes home exhausted. The Homecoming Dance is tonight and she has no idea of what to wear. Susan has a date with Mark for the dance. A date is a very formal matter - with asking out, picking up and bringing home afterwards. Adam and the others don't have dates.

Andrew: "I gotta know how to do good disco dancing, with all those girls ... They did, like the Mashed Potato and stuff ..."

In the school gymnasium, the party is in full swing. It started at 8 and goes until 10. The kids have a great time, without alcohol, of course. It's Homecoming, but there don't seem to be any former students. Wait a minute - no, it's just Andrew. Of course, a king is also elected - here are the top candidates.

Now the climax on Friday night - the football game for which everybody's been waiting. Against Hagard, of all teams, Laney High's arch rival. The Laney Buccaneers are playing in gold. They get off to a good start and score their first touchdown within minutes. The Buccaneers are kicking off and Hagard on the return and what a run! Luckily, tackled by the defense on the 35-yard line. The bands play against each other too. If one plays a cheer, so does the other.

The king is busy playing football today and doesn't have time for the coronation of the queen. There is no quick way to explain football. Suffice it to say that the Laney Buccaneers beat the living daylights out of the other team. Once again, the Buccaneers have managed to get the ball into the opponent's end zone. At half-time - premiere for the marching band.

And now, the moment everybody has been waiting for - the Homecoming Queen is announced. For the coming year the two sovereigns rule the small Kingdom of Laney High.