[StBernard] Hero Rises From The Storm

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon May 21 23:13:52 EDT 2007

Hero Rises From The Storm
Posted by Kelly Cobiella

Kelly Cobiella is a CBS News correspondent based in Dallas.

(CBS)Over a cafeteria lunch of lasagna, broccoli and brownies, St. Bernard
Parish superintendent Doris Voitier told me and my crew a story she's
probably recounted thousands of times by now. Voitier remembered back to
that Sunday in August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was making a beeline
for St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans. She, along with a few staff members
and about a hundred people with medical needs were hunkered down at
Chalmette High School, a shelter of last resort, eating dinner in that same
cafeteria and listening to the wind and rain batter their parish.

When the storm finally passed, they thought they'd weathered it quite well.
The building held together. Then came the water. As it rushed in, Voitier,
the school principal and other staff members carried people in their wheel
chairs, amputees, and others up two flights of stairs to high ground.

It's as if the sensible superintendent is still carrying that load today,
nearly two years later. Of the districts 15 schools wiped out by the
floodwaters, five will be open by the fall, a remarkable achievement.

At the same time, teachers are still living in trailers on school parking
lots. The tax base isn't back because entire neighborhoods look just as they
did after the water receded. Voitier is still trying to recoup $15 million
from FEMA, and the district is suing its insurance company for even more.
Voitier told me, "every day is a struggle, still" and a person can't
understand it unless they live it.

But touring the schools as I did with Voitier for a day, you don't see her
struggle. You see her hugging children, patting teachers on the back,
chatting with school principals. You see her inspiring people to battle
through the bureaucracy to rebuild. And I found myself cheering her on.
Bravo, Doris Voitier. The world could use more leaders like you.

More information about the StBernard mailing list