Two Jeanerette Senior High teachers, Ali Viator Martin and Jena Legnon Meaux, have been called heroes for their actions in Thursday night’s fatal shooting at the Grand Theatre.
Suspected gunman John Russel Houser shot each woman, wounding them both in the leg. Martin was released from the hospital sometime late Thursday or early Friday while Meaux was expected to be released sometime later Friday, said Iberia Parish Schools Superintendent Dale Henderson.
“Emotionally, it will take them awhile to recover from this,” Henderson said. “This is extremely tragic. Something so wonderful and innocent, to just be watching a movie and then to have something like this happen. It’s so unfortunate.”
The women were among those in a crowded Grand 16 Theatre watching the comedy “Trainwreck” when police say Houser opened fire, killing two and injuring nine others before turning the gun on himself when police officers entered the viewing room.
Early Friday morning, police released the names of those killed: Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette.
Gov. Bobby Jindal praised the heroic actions of the women, saying one of the teachers threw herself on top of her friend to protect her from gunfire, and the other managed to pull the fire alarm to alert the building of the danger.
“My understanding is that Ali was the one who was able to pull the fire alarm,” Henderson said.
Martin is an English teacher at Jeanerette Senior High and has been with the School System for the past seven years, Henderson said.
Meaux is the school’s librarian and taught with the school system for the past 21 years, he added.
“(Jena) is a former student of mine. I taught her English at New Iberia Senior High School,” Henderson said. “I know her extremely well, and she’s a wonderful person, and I’m so sorry to hear about the tragic incident.”
As teachers, both have had crisis training and Henderson credited both educators for acting quickly during the chaotic incident that unfurled Thursday.
“Who could imagine on a Thursday evening sitting there watching a movie in Lafayette, Louisiana, and have something like this happen,” he said. “You’re not in that mode of thinking, but evidently, they both reacted very well and very quickly.”
A fund to help the teachers cover their medical costs and the recovery that will follow has been set up by the Iberia Parish Association of Educators in partnership with the Louisiana Association of Educators through Go Fund Me: http://www.gofundme.com/9s2j4cyd2j.
Before noon Friday, donations exceeded the $10,000 goal.
Iberia Parish Association of Educators President Cammie Maturin said that she was contacted by other colleagues who suggested a fundraiser.
“This is going to be a long road for them and the bills aren’t going to stop when they get out of the hospital. They’re going to have aftercare. They’re going to need help. Our insurance only pays so much,” Maturin said.
Maturin previously taught with both women at Jeanerette Senior High and is now an elementary teacher in Iberia Parish. She said she planned to visit with both women later Friday.
“These are two women who would give the shirts off their backs. They have bought so many times — school supplies, uniforms. They take out of their pocket to give to kids. The thing we can do as colleagues is to give back to them,” Maturin said. “You have two wonderful people who are going to be scarred for life — more than just the gunshot wounds.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.