[StBernard] (no subject)

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Fri Aug 25 22:55:28 EDT 2006

This morning, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada joined me for a
visit to hurricane-ravaged St. Bernard Parish, and I am so glad he came. I
only wish every American could see what we shared with him, and hear the
stories we heard.

Walking through Chalmette with Sheriff Jack Stephens as a guide, we were
struck by how much progress has been made. The differences since earlier
this summer were easy to spot. But at every turn was another reminder of
how much work is left to be done. Homes are being gutted, and debris is
still being taken away. Only once the remnants of disaster have been
removed, can real rebuilding begin. But it was heartwarming to hear from
everyone we met that no matter how much work lies ahead, the spirit of
Louisiana is still strong. Everywhere we went, every tale of sorrow ended
with a sense of hope for recovery. We may have been knocked down, but we
will stand up again.

Nick and Greer Cuccia, both SheriffTs Office employees, showed us their
home. Severely damaged by the storm and flood, they are now living in a
trailer in their driveway, working nights and weekends to rebuild their home
and raise it to protect against future floods. They havenTt hired
carpenters or other workers. It isnTt some FEMA contractor rebuilding the
house. Nick and Greer are doing it themselves. With every bucket of cement
and every nail driven, a piece of their spirit will become an integral part
of the renewed home they are building -- and part of the community they are
helping to anchor for the future.

School Superintendent Doris Voitier and Principal Leanne Harlton then led us
on a visit to Andrew Jackson Elementary School , after Chalmette High School
only the second school in St. Bernard to reopen since the hurricanes and
levee breaks. Despite significant roof damage and more than ten feet of
flooding, the main school building has been almost completely restored in
the past ten weeks, and 1,700 students are already enrolled to return to
school there. Despite not having air conditioning until opening day, the
teachers and administration worked through the weekend before to add a
personal touch to every classroom.

Many of the teachers are living in FEMA trailers parked in the school
parking lot. Their passion for teaching is unmistakable " they now
literally live at work, driven by their dedication to the children they
educate. In the second grade classroom of teacher Jena Sullivan, I asked
the 20 or so children how many of them were also living in trailers. Nearly
every hand went up. But other than the surprise visit by two senators and
the excitement of the lights and cameras following us, it was just another
day at school for these students. With full lives ahead of them, they know
" consciously or not " that there is hope for a strong recovery, and that
the devastation of Katrina and Rita and the levee breaks will be replaced by
rebirth and renewal, as well as the continuing spirit of our state. All of
us could learn a lesson by listening to these children.

Our visit wrapped up at Main Ts Grocery on Judge Perez Drive . Carlton Main
was a 23-year employee of Winn-Dixie Supermarkets in the area before he
moved to Tennessee for work. But he soon grew homesick, and knew all too
well that residents would not return after the disaster without access to
daily essentials such as food and household supplies. He moved back and
worked with family and friends to open his store on June 28, the first
grocery store to open or reopen in the parish since the storm. His store,
like the CucciaTs home and Andrew Jackson School , is an anchor for our
rebuilding " a cornerstone to the foundation of a new St. Bernard.

The road to recovery is a hard one, but with people like those we met today,
I know we will make it all the way through.

- Mary L. Landrieu

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