Town Slowly Recovering

From Hurricane Charley

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- Step by small step, life is returning to normal in this town hardest hit by Hurricane Charley.

The downtown hospital reopened Friday, and Gov. Jeb Bush (R) promised to bring in portable classrooms so all schools could open a week from Monday.

"You have a senior class that has had four years here, and for them to graduate at another site is not acceptable," said Charlotte High School Principal Barney Duffy, standing in front of a pile of bricks and shattered wooden beams that toppled from the three-story school.

It will probably be another two years before students walk Charlotte High's halls again, but 80 portable classrooms will be brought in for its 2,300 students. Football practice begins this weekend.

"It's going to start the healing process," Duffy said. The students "need to be with their friends, commiserate, cry a little and hopefully laugh a little."

* CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Four people died in a chain reaction of crashes involving 35 vehicles Thursday, authorities said. Nearly 40 people were treated at hospitals, and a dozen were kept overnight. Officials believe heavy fog, wet roads and speeding drivers were factors in the wrecks on Interstate 80 but do not know what touched them off.

* SAN FRANCISCO -- Two soon-to-be-married Christian camp counselors reported missing earlier this week were shot to death in their sleeping bags on a remote beach, authorities said. The bodies of Lindsay Cutshall, 23, and Jason Allen, 26, were discovered Wednesday when deputies rescuing a stranded hiker spotted the sleeping bags from their helicopter.

* GARY, Ind. -- Eight companies agreed to pay $56 million to help clean up several miles of the polluted Grand Calumet River near a rare habitat of sand dunes, prairie and swamp, officials said. U.S. Steel Corp., which operates North America's largest steel mill in Gary, will pay $21.5 million, with chemical company DuPont Co. paying $10.5 million and steelmaker Ispat Inland Inc. paying $8.3 million. The five other companies will pay smaller shares.

* HOUSTON -- A South African woman pleaded not guilty to immigration charges in a case that raised concerns about whether terrorists could enter the United States by way of Mexico. Farida Goolam Mahamed Ahmed, 48, was arrested July 19 after being stopped by the Border Patrol at McAllen-Miller International Airport in south Texas as she tried to board a plane bound for New York.

* HOUSTON -- The lawyer for the adoptive mother of seven children who were found ill in a Nigerian orphanage said they were abandoned by the woman's brother-in-law while she was working in Iraq. Michael Delaney said Mercury Liggins had checked into a hospital for nervous exhaustion after learning what had happened to the children. "She trusted the wrong person," Delaney told the Houston Chronicle. "She feels badly for her kids." The children are now in foster homes in Houston; Liggins faces a custody hearing next week.

-- From News Services