Recently, the Rousseau family lived through a trauma that most parents dread and pray never to experience. A member of their family abducted three of their children. The children were rescued and returned to their parents but how is the family now that the trauma is over?
I was invited into the Rousseau's home to discuss this very topic. Upon entering their modern two story home I was struck by how it is a classic family home. Pictures hang in the hallway, toys are scattered on the floor and other surfaces, mementos of life back in Louisiana are prominently displayed.
The Rousseau family are well known members of the community. Dimitri "Trey" Rousseau is the Chief of the Fire Department, the City Manager, and a member of the City Council. He and his wife, Alexia, have both ran for mayor. This city is their home, the place where they are raising their children and where they have a very successful business. They both work at the Rousseau Construction Company and Dimitri is quick to point out that he isn't just the owner of the company, he is a contractor and gets his hands dirty.
Alexia and Dimitri have five children, the three oldest were abducted by Max McTavish, Alexia's father. I wanted to understand what drove McTavish to kidnap his grandchildren on the ruse that they were going on a fishing trip. Like all family dramas, it is not a simple or easy tale to tell.
Max McTavish was a cop at one time, a Lieutenant. Unfortunately, he decided that he had to blow up his precinct. He was apprehended before he could blow the building up. Alexia was only nine years old when her father was sent to prison. She became a ward of the state.
Despite his criminal history and possible mental illness, she and her husband welcomed him back to the family where he duped them. In a quiet, halting voice, Alexia said, "He's not mentally stable. Hasn't been since then, but we were working on it here. Going to therapy. We didn't know that he'd stopped going a couple months back."
Dimitri added that Max had asked for money and the family had helped him to the tune of over one hundred thousand dollars. Then, Dimitri and Alexia cut him off when Max started drinking too much. Worried for their kids they gave him an ultimatum. Stop drinking or he wouldn't be allowed to have contact with the family anymore. Evidently he didn't take that very well and eventually kidnapped the children.
The Sheriff's Department and the Coast Guard worked closely together to locate Max and the children. Still, going days without knowing if your children were alive or dead takes a toll on a marriage. Dimitri was especially worried because he had worked with the coast guard before and believed Max didn't have the kind of experience necessary to survive at sea for days or weeks. I asked how they managed to get through the abduction of their children, when so many other parents end up blaming each other or having difficulties.
"You just go numb. He kept us focused," Alexia said, of her husband. "I knew this was Max but we also knew that Max wouldn't purposely hurt the kids. But he don't know a boat well enough to be so far out for so long with children. That part will make your heart stop beating if you think to hard on it."
Dimitri continued by sharing his feelings while the children were gone. "I was highly stressed every single day. I'm used to dealing with life and death situations, been out there in the hottest fires, been used to looking for occupants to rescue from flames, from car wrecks, but I could only think of my kids, day in and day out and not being able to search and rescue them was killing me. We wasn't at odds with each other, my wife needed me, much as I needed she. But we did know Max were never going to hurt them kids. He endangered them by not having the prerequisite skill set or so I believed. And by not planning logistically. He was exposing them to a long arduous journey without proper provisions and care. In my line of work and past work as Coast Security--Planning mitigate any potential disaster. Who knows what could have happened? I'm just thankful to God they all safe and back with us where they belong."
The Rousseau's were especially thankful to the community for coming out for a vigil for their children. They didn't have any idea about the vigil but Dimitri was part of the rescue when the cornfields were set on fire. They are also very grateful to the SRSD and the Coast Guard.
In this season of Thanksgiving, the Rousseau's are thankful to have their family safe and at home. In a world where truth is fake news and fake news is the truth, many of us can feel worn down and defeated by life. You need only look at the Rousseau's holding their youngest daughter to see what we all should truly be thankful for this holiday season. Family. Love. Community. Hope.