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April 12, 2006 -- Mount political science students marched into the Chalon Campus Lecture Hall April 11 dressed in business attire, ready to take on their roles as members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Their class assignment was to conduct a post-Hurricane Katrina hearing. Students studied and researched actual hearings to prepare their own scripts, which they delivered with enthusiasm and emotion.
Members of the Senate Committee included Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) (Rinee Alvarez), and Ranking Minority Member Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) (Rochelle Valere). "Witnesses" included Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security (Gricelda Ceja), Michael Brown, Former Director of FEMA (Heather Lindquist), Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans (Mia Mitchell), Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana (Rachel Gutierrez), Colonel Richard Wagenaar, Corps of Engineers (Jessica Thiele), and citizen accounts (Sonia Hernandez and Reina Martinez).
As Joseph Lieberman, Rochelle Valere told committee members that the "poor preparation was disturbing to all Americans.” As Mayor Ray Nagin, Mia Mitchell explained that “FEMA and the federal government had under-estimated this hurricane.”
As Michael Brown, Heather Lindquist tucked her long blond hair into a short brown wig and wore a man’s suit and tie. When criticized by committee members, she responded, “Why must I be the scapegoat for the Bush Administration?” As citizens, both Sonia Hernandez and Reina Martinez questioned why they were left stranded without food and water for so many days. As Susan Collins, Rinee Alvarez said that “visions of our citizens stranded will continue to haunt us every day.”
Helen Boutrous, political science professor, closed by saying, “We reenacted this today to make sure we don’t forget.”