Enterprise not Waiting on FEMA for Aid

ENTERPRISE, Ala. (AP) - Memories of the government's fitful response to Hurricane Katrina are still fresh in the Deep South, including Enterprise, the city slammed by a twister that killed eight teenagers at school.

Those residents weren't sure today what kind of assistance to expect.

One thing was clear, though: Few are waiting on the government for help, and they didn't need to.

Even as President Bush was a few hundred yards away promising relief aid, neighbors with chainsaws were cutting up fallen trees for friends. The smell of fresh-cut pine soaked the air.

Church groups and other volunteer agencies swarmed into Enterprise to help clear debris and, just as importantly, offer a glimmer of hope amid the devastation.

"Any help that you get is more than you had," says Elaine Davis as friends and relatives helped carry boxes out of her house, where a steel beam from nearby Enterprise High School punctured a hole in the roof.

A tornado struck this city in southeastern Alabama on Thursday, killing eight students and a woman in another part of town. Statewide, 10 died.

Bush designated Coffee County as a disaster area, releasing millions of dollars in federal aid for recovery and individual assistance.

"You can never heal a heart, but you can provide comfort knowing that the federal government will provide help for those whose houses were destroyed or automobiles were destroyed," Bush told the mayor.

Catherine Samuel, who was helping Davis clean up her home, is leery of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized after Katrina, particularly for its response to the flooding of New Orleans.

"People are probably scared of FEMA after Katrina," she says. "I hope they don't come here and make it worse."

But Robyn Stinson expects an improved response from the government and believes the agency learned from past mistakes.

"Maybe I'm naive," she says, "but I really do."

As Bush toured the high school a few streets over, James Weaver, a student pilot at the Army's nearby Fort Rucker, picked through the remains of his house looking for anything that could be salvaged.

Weaver's wife Amy and two children, 6-year-old son Dade and 3-year-old daughter Ailie, survived by hiding in a closet with a blanket over them as the twister ripped the roof off their brick home.

Watching the kids, Amy Weaver says, "As far as I know insurance takes care of it all, and we are so fortunate to have friends who are helping."

She say she knows others need help, though, saying, "I hope they get it."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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