I was in 5th grade at Catahoula Elementary. It was a regular crazy Monday afternoon. My dad usually got home later, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but that could not be farther from the truth. My mom received a phone call from a close family friend: “No reports had come out with enough details about what was going on at the jail, but you might want to call Todd.” I felt the tension in the air. Mom hung up the phone and frantically dialed dad’s office extension. My younger sister and I had our ears fixed on the phone waiting to hear our dad’s voice. To our relief, he answered and assured us that “there was a situation at the jail, but they were handling it.”
After he was released, dad told us that the Cuban detainees had him restrained in his office with a “shank” to his neck when he received mom’s call. Detainees were in the process of having him call all the biggest news broadcast companies to air their plight; they wanted their story told. What bravery and compassion he had shown to give my mom and us hope that we and our extended family would cling to for the next six days.
None of us slept well that night because the circumstances at the jail were still unclear, and it involved the safety of our father. Tuesday evening when we returned from school, it was utter chaos at our home. Family members were piled into our living room waiting for the news to come on. The report headlined on nearly all the news channels was about the “Hostage Crisis at St. Martin Parish Jail.” I can recall getting so mad at some of the news reporters when they would say the hostages name and call my dad, “Warden Warren G. Louviere.” I thought surely, since he’s going through this ordeal, they could at least get his name right.
The next few days were just a blur. One night, family members of the hostages were invited to a prayer vigil held near the flagpole right outside of the jail. My family had to make a line around my mom, my sister, and me. Several of the reporters were trying to get shots of the hostages’ immediate family members. Several reporters congregated where everyone had parked. It was scary; we were chased by reporters with these cameras with bright lights when all we were trying to do was pray for my dad.
We grew weary of the “juicy story” the crisis had become because for the family members it was just that – a crisis. We lived with the knowledge each day that he might not come home. We stopped watching the news after they aired statistics of law enforcement hostage situations in which 98% result in death of the hostage. We instead got our information from Capt Scott Haydel and Capt. Eddie Romero. We later realized they withheld some information and chose only to share with us the more positive side of the negotiations, which was probably for the best.
On the 6th day of the hostage crisis, we received a phone call. Dad was released! We all headed to Lafayette General to meet him. A law enforcement officer and friend of the family took us to the hospital separately. He told us that reporters had already arrived at the hospital waiting to catch footage of the family members being reunited with the hostages. He knew of an alternative way to get into the hospital where we would not be seen. I could barely contain myself the whole way to the hospital and nearly skipped inside, so excited to finally see my dad. When I saw him, I was so happy tears just ran down my face. Before he could ask what was wrong, I walked to his bed and gave him a big hug. We had received a great Christmas gift, although he was bruised, dehydrated and sustained a broken nose, we had our dad with us to celebrate Christmas.
The nightmare had finally ended.
Leah R. Louviere, APO