Video: Classes resume in St. Bernard's Parish

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/15/2005 1:50:27 PM ET 2005-11-15T18:50:27

ST. BERNARD PARISH, La. — Finally, a Monday morning that dawned not with images of broken lives, but of renewal. Neighbors, scattered by fate and nature's rage, came together again on an improbable first day of school.

It's called the "Unified School" – for grades kindergarten through 12, with classes in trailers and, for some kids, in some of the high school's undamaged classrooms. In all, more than 700 students have signed up so far and 400 showed up Monday. Wherever they and their families have been living, they all found a way to get here, bunking wherever they can.

Even 12-year-old Tiffany Hamilton, who couldn't wait to return from Florida. 

"She was just miserable," her father, Mark, says. "She couldn't handle it. We were going to come in January, but when they opened up, she wanted to come today."

One teacher said the driving philosophy all along was pretty simple: a takeoff on the line from the baseball movie "Field of Dreams": "If you open it, they will come."

And, unlike New Orleans, whose schools won't open until January at the earliest, here, they didn't wait for the state, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to give the OK.

"I think we're sending out a message that St. Bernard will rebuild, with or without anybody's help," says St. Bernard Parish Schools Superintendent Doris Voitier.

There was a pep rally and hugs at every opportunity. Then there was some actual classroom time.

Some students, like India Mahoney, were strangers to each other. 

"I don't, like, know a lot of people," Mahoney says, "but I'm meeting new friends."

But all — students, parents and teachers — had been through the worst of it and now were back, at least this far. And, unquestionably, they have something to celebrate.

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