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 Home > News & Policies > May 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 13, 2003

President Bush Visits Tornado-Stricken Town in Missouri
Remarks by the President to the Citizens of Pierce City, Missouri
St. Mary's Catholic Church Parish Hall
Pierce City, Missouri

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2:05 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. It is my honor to be here -- can you hear me back there? (Applause.) it is my honor to be here with some of our countries finest citizens. I am sorry I'm here under such circumstances.

I first want to thank the Mayor for his hospitality and helping to arrange my visit. I want to thank the good Father for opening up this place of worship, this house of God, to help those who suffered. (Applause.) I find it, and I hope you do, uplifting that in the midst of tragedy, amongst people who have lost their homes, in some cases their loved one, or their businesses, lost their possessions, that we gather to comfort each other and to find help in the house of the Lord. Because it's with His strength and His prayer that you'll find the sustenance to go on.

President George W. Bush comforts Scott and Annette Rector in front of their destroyed business in Pierce City, Mo., Tuesday, May 13, 2003. "You can't realize what it's like to see a tornado go right down the main street of a town and just wipe it out," said President Bush as he surveyed the damage from tornados that ripped through southwestern Missouri May 4. "It's hard to envision. But a lot of people know you're suffering, and a lot of people are praying for you, and a lot of people care for you. And a lot of people wish you all the best."  White House photo by Susan Sterner One of the things that struck me as I worked through the crowd here, shaking as many hands as I could, was that the people here who have been affected by the storm are ready to move on; are ready to pick up their lives and -- (applause) -- are ready to do everything they can to convert this tragedy into good. Folks want to rebuild their -- the feed man told me, he said, I got wiped out, but I'm starting tomorrow to rebuild my company. And there's no doubt you will, because there's a lot of people who want to help you.

And for the volunteers who are here, the people who have taken time out of your lives -- the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army, or the church groups, or the USA Freedom Corps people -- (applause) -- I want to thank you very much for helping your neighbor in need.

I'm asking the FEMA people and the Governor and the Mayor and everybody said, is the government moving fast enough? That's the question that I need to know. And some of you said, yes; and some of you said, no. And for the ones who said, no, we will do everything we can to get you the -- what you're owed. We'll process the paperwork as fast as possible. And if you qualify for help, they'll get you the help. That's what we're supposed to be doing.

So one of my visits -- one of the reasons I'm visiting here is to ask the question to people. Because if there's -- moving too slow, or people are saying one thing and the other thing is not happening, now is the time to find out.

But the other real reason is to let you know there's a lot of Americans who are praying for you. A lot of people around this country saw the devastation -- they didn't see what I've seen, because they -- you can't tell how bad it is until you actually come here to Pierce City and see it yourself. You can't realize what it's like to see a tornado go right down the main street of a town and just wipe it out. It's hard to envision. But a lot of people know you're suffering, and a lot of people are praying for you, and a lot of people care for you. And a lot of people wish you all the best.


Listening to the story of how a tornado swept through their town, President George W. Bush meets one-on-one with residents during his walking tour of Pierce City, Mo., Tuesday, May 13, 2003.  White House photo by Susan Sterner May God bless you. (Applause.)

END 2:08 P.M. CDT