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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 19, 2004
12:01 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, thank you all for coming. Today I've been joined by Governor Riley and Governor Bush, Alabama and Florida, and members of the Senate from Alabama, Sessions and Shelby, Congressman Joe Bonner, Congressman Miller from Florida, Mayors from the affected areas -- Mayor Russo, Bodenhamer and Russell.
The devastation caused by Ivan is terrible. This was a big storm that caused a lot of damage and a lot of suffering. And I want to thank the -- I want to thank the people that are working hard to bring some sense of order in the lives of these citizens; folks at the state level and at the local level. I want to thank the FEMA workers for laying the foundation for what is going to be a recovery.
I was -- I know people all across our country join me in praying for the families of those who suffered loss of life. I want to thaank the search and rescue teams from all over the United States who are here, using every possible asset they have to find those who are still missing. We understand thousands don't have power. I want to thank the power companies that understand that they have an obligation and a duty to restore power as quickly as possible. There are a lot of people working for the power companies, a lot of people stringing line from all over the southeast of our country. I want to thank them for taking time to come down here and help the people sorely affected by this terrible storm.
We toured the beaches in Florida and Alabama and saw how powerful this storm was. But the governors and I fully understand there are people inland who have been affected; there are people in rural Alabama, small-town Alabama whose lives have been turned upside down by this storm, as well; people in rural Florida who have been affected by this storm. And I want them to understand that when I talk about FEMA help, FEMA help not only extends to the beaches, it extends to people inland here in the state of Alabama and in Florida, as well. (Applause.)
The amazing thing about these catastrophes is how the American people rise to the occasion. The amazing thing about devastation is how there is such compassion in the face of such devastation. When I was visiting with some of the residents, they were telling me the amount of -- number of people that have showed up just to provide help; people that have heard a call to love a neighbor in a time of distress. And I want to thank all those who have come to provide help to a neighbor in need.
I want to appreciate our National Guard troops who are here for providing stability. I went to the National Guard Bureau convention in Vegas the other day, and quoted a woman from Florida, from the Punta Gorda area, who said it brought her such great comfort to see those who wear the uniform, and I appreciate you doing that. I want to thank the police and firefighters from this part of the world, who have been working overtime, for their compassion, for providing stability so people can, at some point in time, get their lives back in order. The federal government has a responsibility to provide aid as quickly as possible. FEMA Director Brown is with me today. He has done an excellent job on the two hurricanes that hit Florida earlier, he will do an excellent job on this hurricane, as well, in making sure that all federal aid is coordinated well with the state and local governments, making sure all the aid that is available gets down here as quickly as possible.
I also want to assure the farmers from this part of the world, the nurserymen in this part of the world that we will have a plan worked out to help you; that we have an obligation at the federal level to provide assistance, and that assistance will be detailed, so you understand what kind of help is available. As well, we understand -- fully understand that the highways have been affected here, that many of the roads are impassible. We're going to work with Congress to ensure that highways and bridges are repaired as quickly as possible.
I want to thank the -- again, want to thank the local officials for rising to the occasion. Most of all, I want to tell the citizens of this partt of the world that we're praying for you, that we'll get help out here as quickly as we can, and that we ask God's blessings on you and your family.
Thank you all. (Applause.)