In and Out in Ninety Days – FEMA CORPS Members Revisit the Epicenter of the Great East Coast Earthquake

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By John Rowe Jr. EA Media Monitor/Writer - DR-4072-VA

In and out in ninety days is FEMA’s goal for most disasters. Several FEMA Public Assistance employees at DR-4072 in Richmond, Va., who worked the Great East Coast Earthquake (DR-4042-VA) along with FEMA Corps members revisited the epicenter that rocked Alabama to Maine. The quake was centered near the Louisa County, Va., town of Mineral.

Superintendent of Louisa County Public Schools Deborah Pettit hosted the corpsmen. Pettit said of FEMA’s efforts “What FEMA has done for us hasn’t left us.” The school system’s Director of Finance Phillip Trayer stated, “If we didn’t have FEMA helping us, I don’t know where we would be. Louisa County Public Schools lost 40 percent of the county’s school structures in eleven seconds.”

The administrators first struggled with getting the students back in school and canceling school was not an option. Can you imagine being a high school senior and not being able to graduate? The thought stunned several FEMA Corp members who had only recently graduated. “The senior thing was amazing, not knowing whether you would graduate on time or even where you would finish school. It was great to see FEMA’s impact on the community,” said corpsman Kelsie Langston of Jacobus, Pa.

FEMA Corps member Rachael Fulk of Davis, Calif., also seized on the positive resilience of the rural Virginians. “It was neat to see the positive effect FEMA has had on a community. It is the first time we’ve experienced this effect.”

Today, Louisa County High School students and Thomas Jefferson Grade School students attend classes in temporary trailer classrooms. FEMA has provided 4.75 million dollars for the temporary relocation of the destroyed high school and grade school.

Bull dozers, excavators, front end loaders and haulers remove the rubble of once proud structures that had served this rural community for decades. Students watch daily as walls that housed the memories of a thousand basketball games and prom dances are carried away in dump trucks. Corpsman Joe Trimble of Montgomery, Ala., said, “The ingenuity that these people have had in getting students back in school, well it was just dedication across the board.”

August 23, 2011 at 1:52 PM Louisa County High School and Thomas Jefferson Grade School suffered a combined total of 56.6 million dollars of structural damage in eleven seconds. FEMA has contributed through 16 separated project worksheets 28 million dollars for the recovery of public education in Louisa County. But all the money couldn’t purchase the “can do” spirit exhibited by these rural Virginians. Corpsman Kimberly Teruya shared, “They have taken back their pride.  It is amazing how they managed through the disaster. They have taken ownership over the future of their organization.”

Cutlines for photographs:

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Built in 1923, the walls of the former Louisa County High School are being demolished.  Ground preparation is underway for a new high school scheduled to open in 2016.

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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