July 27, 2015

Cassidy, Vitter Remember Lafayette Victims and Heroes

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. and David Vitter honored Jillian Johnson and Mayci Breaux, victims of the Lafayette shooting, in the U.S. Senate today. The Senators thanked first responders, theater staff and schoolteachers Jena Meaux and Ali Martin who acted bravely in aiding the victims and stopping the shooter. Dr. Cassidy also called attention for the need to reform America’s mental health system.

Watch Sens. Cassidy and Vitter’s remarks HERE and read their remarks below:

Sen. Cassidy Remarks 

Last week, a terrible tragedy occurred in Lafayette, Louisiana when a mentally ill gunman opened fire in a movie theater filled with innocent people.  

Jillian Johnson was a talented artist, successful entrepreneur and an active member of the Lafayette community. Jillian played in a local all-female band, co-owned a gift and toy shop and often organized community projects that benefited all. She was a kind and charitable soul. Described by her husband as a loving friend, daughter, sister and wife.

Mayci Breaux was an incredible young lady with a bright future. A student at Louisiana State University-Eunice, Mayci was studying to be a medical radiology technician and was engaged to her high school sweetheart, planning to marry after she graduated. Mayci worked in a local fashion boutique, where her customers and co-workers remember her generous smile and wonderful optimism.

These two women exemplify the kindness and essence of the Lafayette community. And although they were taken from us far too quickly, their memories live.

Let us also take a moment to thank heroes in this tragedy. The Lafayette police, Acadian Ambulance, the employees of the Grand 16 movie theater and other first responders who acted bravely and quickly to stop the shooter and aid the injured. We are grateful for their service and we honor them today. 

I also acknowledge by name Jena Meaux and Ali Martin. Their quick thinking and courageousness saved lives when they crawled across the movie theater floor to pull a fire alarm to alert authorities.

Lafayette and Louisiana are resilient. In times of tragedy and pain, we come together to support and care for one another. The love we have for each other, even in the darkest of times, will help Lafayette and our state and community recover.  

The events that transpired in Lafayette last week are a reminder of the long road we must take to reform our mental health system. Too many innocent lives are being taken in senseless attacks in movie theaters, schools, churches and other places where we should feel safe. 

The common denominator in these tragedies is all too often untreated mental illness. As public servants we should seek to keep the public safe. But our mental health system is badly broken and fails to do so. And reforms are coming too slowly.  It doesn’t make sense that parents caring for a mentally ill child cannot be part of the medical decision-making that could prevent horrendous tragedies.

I could go down the list of reforms that need to be made to improve our mental health system. I’m working with my good friend Senator Chris Murphy on legislation that will help reform our mental health system and make it easier for those in need to the help that could potentially avert a tragedy like this.

I finish once more by saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of Jillian and Mayci and all those wounded who are suffering. May they know God’s comfort at a time when it may be otherwise impossible for them to feel comforted.

I yield to my fellow Senator and good friend, Senator Vitter. 

Sen. Vitter Remarks

Madam President,

I come to the Senate floor sadly in light of this tragedy to join my colleague, Senator Cassidy, in expressing these heartfelt thoughts. And we rise, today, again to express our deepest sympathy for the victims of this horrible, horrible shooting in Lafayette. For their families, our thoughts and prayers, all of Lafayette and Louisiana’s hearts go out to all of the families involved in this tragic, tragic incident.

We lost, as Senator Cassidy suggested, two enormously talented and unique and irreplaceable individuals. And we certainly pay tribute to them.

As Senator Cassidy suggested, Mayci was a student at Louisiana State University Eunice, full of life, full of hope, full of promise. She was studying to become an ultrasound and radiology technician.  In fact, she was scheduled to begin her training at Lafayette General Hospital, just a few days after her tragic death and she was at the movie with her boyfriend, Matthew Rodriguez, who was among the nine wounded.

Jillian was the owner of Parish Ink, a T-shirt printing company, specializing in old Acadiana verities. She and her husband also owned the Red Arrow Workshop, a gift and toy shop in Lafayette.  And again full of life, full of talent, and full of vigor and happiness.  She played the ukulele and guitar for The Figs, an all-female sextet from Lafayette.

Two individuals completely, completely irreplaceable and they will be so sorely missed.

And I also join Senator Cassidy in recognizing and thanking the heroic actions of those two teachers from Jeanerette High School in Iberia Parish, Jena Meaux and Ali Martin. According to several reports, Ali jumped in from of Jena to shield her from the shooting, very, very likely saving her life. Caused the bullet to hit Jena’s leg instead of Ali’s head, and Ali was shot in the leg in the process. Despite their injuries, Jena courageously pulled the fire alarm alerting the whole movie theater and certainly saving lives. So we pay tribute and remember them as well.

And we also pause and remember and continue praying for the recovery of nine other individuals, who were wounded in this horrible incident.  Matthew Rodriguez, I mentioned the boyfriend of Mayci Breaux, Morgan Julia Egedahl, Dwight “Bo” Ramsey and his wife, Gerry, these are cousins of Congressman Boustany, by the way, good friends of both Senator Cassidy and myself. Ali Viator Martin, an English Teacher at Jeanerette Senior High School and Jena Legnon Meaux, who I’ve mentioned as true heroes in this incident.

You know on Saturday evening, Lafayette residents gathered downtown to honor particularly the two victims that lost their lives. During the vigil, one Lafayette resident stated, she certainly stated it well:  “We can’t let evil win.  We as a community have to rise above that and move forward.” Well we do, but as we do, Senator Cassidy and I rise today to honor the victims; to remember them, particularly Mayci and Jillian, and to certainly recommit ourselves to the important work at hand including regarding mental illness that senator Cassidy suggested.

We have prepared a Senate Resolution commemorating the victims of this horrible event. So at this point, Madam President, I would ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of that resolution, Senate Resolution 231, submitted earlier today.

Thank you, Madam President. Now I ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble to be agreed to, that the notion of reconsider be laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. 

Thank you, madam president. Again, madam president, we all hold up these families, and particularly the two victims and their families, in our prayers, in our continuing thoughts, and our love. It is a horrible, horrible incident. But I know the community of Lafayette well, I know the state well and it certainly it will not stop with pure tragedy. Certainly folks will hold up these families with love and support and prayer and work toward for a better resolution and issues involved as the ones Senator Cassidy mentioned.

Thank you, madam president, I yield the floor.