Georgians 'resilient,' Napolitano says

Georgians 'resilient,' Napolitano says

May 8th, 2011 by Staff Report in Local - Breaking News

Following a tour of tornado-damaged areas in Ringgold, U.S. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano urged residents who suffered storm damage to register with FEMA. Napolitano spoke Sunday afternoon to reporters gathered at the Adult Learning Center at Benton Place. U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, left, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, right, and GEMA Director Charley English, center, were among those attending the press conference. Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

RINGGOLD, Ga. - After a morning driving around the destroyed homes and businesses of Ringgold on Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was struck by one thing above all else - the community's resilience.

"This is a tough one, but this is a tough town and a tough area. People are going to come back," Napolitano said at a media briefing. "Recovery is alive and well here, in Ringgold and in the whole surrounding area."

Napolitano, who is scheduled to speak at the commencement of Emory University in Atlanta today, met with volunteers and victims of April's tornados while touring downtown Ringgold and surrounding areas.

The cabinet member heads the department under which the Federal Emergency Managment Agency operates, and she stressed the organization isn't leaving the area until everything is back in order.

"Our teams were in the field within hours, we are still in the field, we will remain in the field until we are confident that these communities are well on their way to recovery," she said.

Several churches held services Sunday morning, and though their steeple was blown off, the town's First Baptist Church hosted Napolitano, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, and U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, for a short, casual breakfast.

"Even with the other stuff going on in the world, it's nice to know they're still thinking of our little town," said Brant Olivarri, a minister at the church. "I know it meant a lot to our people."

See Monday's Times Free Press for complete coverage.