After Katrina: Cecile Tebo

How ex-debutante Cecile Tebo became head of New Orleans’s mental health SWAT team.

By Maryn McKenna
Tebo visits a tent city where many of New Orleans' mentally ill camped out after Katrina. (Photo: Rebecca Greenfield)

As if anyone needed a reminder. Tebo hoards a generator, an ax, and an inflatable boat that seats six — in her attic, because that is how high the waters might rise next time.

Years ago, she began work on a book about her adoption cases. Just before Katrina, to accommodate an officemate’s bad back, she had moved her records into the lowest file drawers. "The storm took everything," she says. "Twenty-six years of my work. So I just kind of kissed it all good-bye. I said to myself, this is just meant to be a wonderful memory. And then we were so busy with the crisis unit, I invested all of myself in that."

Maryn McKenna is the author of Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

Originally published in MORE magazine, April 2008.

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