Reported by Theresa Schmidt
June 27th people from Cameron parish and others throughout southwest Louisiana gathered in the courthouse square to commemorate that dreadful day fifty years ago.
As hundreds gathered for the somber occasion, many couldn't help but notice the beautiful weather. A sharp contrast to the day fifty years ago when the people of Cameron parish suffered such unimaginable tragedy and loss. With so many lives ended, so much sorrow it was no coincidence that the event was held at the courthouse that provided shelter for some 2000 who survived Audrey.
Judge ward Fontenot told them in the aftermath, it was the only way he knew he had found his way home. "The one thing I could see was this courthouse. I knew I was home."
There were Audrey survivors like Frankie Henry, who worked at civil defense in the aftermath: "I stayed identifying bodies for three days and couldn't take it no more. So, we had to change people to identify bodies. We would identify them and tie a note on their toes and they were shipped to Lake Charles."
And the day was an opportunity for those who weren't even born, like Kim Hornsby, to learn more about the disaster that has in many ways shaped their community. Hornsby: "I had no idea that people I know very well had lost children and I had no idea that had happened. And they started all over again. It's amazing, it's amazing. I don't know if I could do it."
Keynote speaker Brigadier General Robert Joseph LeBlanc was the battalion commander who helped with search and rescue. As many look back, he looks to the future saying surge protection is needed along highway 82 to the Texas line. "If Galveston can have a fifteen foot seawall, why can't Rutherford Beach, Holly Beach, Johnson Bayou and Chenier have one too?"
And he speaks of the grit and determination of people here: "Here in Southwest Louisiana we work as a team and say 'We shall return.' We will elevate, comply with codes, and rebuild. We shall evacuate if necessary, but we shall return."
While time heals, the pain some endured will never release its grip on the hearts of those who lost loved ones. Yet their presence here is a testament to their strength and the ability of the human spirit to overcome against all odds.