For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 2, 2005
Mrs. Bush Visits with Those Affected by Hurricane Katrina
In Focus: Hurricane Relief
MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much. Thank you, Congressman, and thank you all for coming out. You're going to give me a chance to say -- to let people know around the country, really, that some things are working very, very well in Louisiana, and certainly this center is one of those, as you can see. There are over 6,000 people here from New Orleans, nearly all of them from New Orleans, who have come up. They're being taken care of, their needs are being met. The people of this part of the United States, the Lafayette area of Louisiana are very, very warm people. They've opened their hearts, and many of them have opened their homes, as well, to people from New Orleans -- family members and strangers. And so I think what you're seeing is how a city can pull itself together and do all of these things, and provide for all of these people who are here, the ones who are here in this center, as well as many other people who are staying with families in Lafayette.
And so I want to thank you very much, Congressman. I want to thank the Mayor. I want to thank all the Red Cross volunteers who are here. I visited with them earlier. They've come in from around the country. There are people -- local Red Cross workers -- volunteers, as well as people from around the country. And I want to urge people who want to volunteer, and who have the ability to be able to come to Louisiana or any of the Gulf Coast states that were affected and volunteer, to try to do that. If you can't do it this week, there will be next week and the next week. And it's going to go on for a long time. So we want to make sure that volunteers continue all through the months that it's going to take to let people be able to get back into their own homes and back into their own city.
They're registering children for school here. They're actually in this center; you can register for school, and the children from New Orleans who will go the Lafayette schools will start on Wednesday. So I think that's very important. It's very important to get your children in school. It gives children a sense of normalcy.
And so I want to urge people who, wherever you are around the country, if you've left New Orleans or left any of the affected areas on the Gulf Coast, to go ahead and enroll your children in school. It's very important for them. I heard a great story about a little boy from New Orleans, who went to school today at a Texas school district, and he was in high school, but he was sort of thin and small, and two great big football players sort of adopted him and are walking him around the campus and welcoming him to their school.
So I know school districts everywhere will be welcoming. I want to thank the people of Texas and Houston and Dallas and San Antonio that have opened their big arenas like this to take in -- take people in, the people who have been displaced because of the storm and those school districts are also opening up. So it's really important for parents to keep their -- let their kids keep going to school, get them in school, don't let them get behind, and also give them a sense of normalcy for their day.
I think this is a really wonderful example of what happens when a community comes together. The logistics, even, a community has to put together to try to have this little city within a city, over 6,000 people here in one place to meet their needs, their needs for hygiene, their needs for food, obviously, and water, and then a safe place for people to be. It's really, really amazing, those logistics are.
And I want to congratulate the people of Lafayette for being able to do this in such a very quick and such a humane way of really helping people, not just giving them the basic needs, but also trying to give them the emotional support they need right now at such a very difficult time in their lives.
So thank you, Congressman. Thank you, everybody else.
Q This morning -- (inaudible.)
MRS. BUSH: Yes.
Q What did you send -- (inaudible)?
MRS. BUSH: Well, many of the families that I met, or some of them, who told me their stories, were literally stuck on a bridge or something like that. Some little girls here lost their mother. One mother I just met lost one of her children. And they're glad to be here. They're glad to be in a safe space. They're glad to be where their basic needs are met. And they know, like everybody else does, that it will be a long time.
I think people would like to get to work. I think they would -- just like children going to school, a lot of these people would like to be able to go to work to give them both something to do during the day, as well as money to live on while they're here. And I know that the Lafayette business community is working as hard as they can to try to match people with their -- with jobs, match skills with jobs so that people can go to work. I've heard already from some people that they're ready to get to work, they want to have a normal life, and both work and school give adults and children a chance to have a normal life.
Q Do you feel that the response has been adequate so far, Mrs. Bush?
MRS. BUSH: I think that --
Q Do you feel the response has been adequate for people who are dying in New Orleans --
MRS. BUSH: Well, I mean, that -- I think that is a serious, serious problem. And we're seeing that all on television. I will say the response is more than adequate here to these people that were able to get out. And I think that will be the case as the people who were evacuated reach these different centers in other Louisiana cities, other Gulf Coast cities, as well as Texas.
Q I have to tell you I'm terrible in math -- (Laughter.) My worst subject of all. But it's going to take a lot of money --
MRS. BUSH: It's going to take a lot of money, and it's going to take a lot of hard work. And it's going to take a lot of fortitude.
Q Where will the money come from?
MRS. BUSH: Well, it will come from the federal government. It will come from businesses. It will come from a variety of places. I don't know that -- if you all know, but a number of countries have offered aid, direct aid to the United States, which is sort of a change for us. We always think we're the ones giving the aid, but I think it's very -- I'm really pleased. I think it's very, very sweet.
The sister cities of Lafayette, all the European and Asian sister cities of Lafayette, all are -- have already contacted the mayor. They want to help in whatever way they can here. And so there is a huge outpouring. A lot of people have already made donations to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or other charities that are working in the area. And that's very important. We need to keep those donations up. People need to continue to donate just like they need to continue to volunteer.
Q Is this the only place you visited?
MRS. BUSH: Today this is the only place. I just came straight to Lafayette. Well, I -- one thing I have to take back is that this doesn't really look like what we're seeing on television. And I'm proud of the people here. I'm proud of the people who are having to live here like this, whose lives are in shatters around them. They've lost loved ones. They've lost their homes. They have no idea what their -- whether their homes are even standing, and still they are patient, and they are -- the nurses and the doctors tell me they thank them. The Red Cross volunteers tell me that these people thank them, say that to them, say thank you for helping me. And I think it's -- this is just a very, very good example of what we want for all the people who are being evacuated out of any of the affected Gulf Coast areas.
Q -- from New Orleans? (Inaudible.)
MRS. BUSH: Well, no, I mean, I see -- we thought there were 25,000 or whatever in the Superdome, and then, of course, more and more people have shown up. But, no, I'm not surprised. You know that people are caught in various situations. They might be on their roof. They might be on a bridge. They might be under a bridge. They -- I'm not surprised, but I am very happy to know that so many cities are willing to take the people who evacuate and willing to try to work them into their lives. And that's really what Lafayette has done, to work them into their own economies, try -- at some point each of these communities who have taken people evacuated will try to help people find housing, temporary housing or apartments or whatever, as well as jobs.
And I think that's really, really important. Over the next few months, before people can go back home, people need to be able to have a job. They need to try to find some sort of housing. And of course, these can be available for months. But people are going to want to get into their own apartments.
Q You mentioned the television coverage. I'm wondering if you could say what you think it does to the United States' image in the world to see these images from New Orleans, overwhelmingly black people who are still trapped, many of them poor, could not get out, didn't ignored the evacuation requirements, but simply couldn't get out. What image does it show to the world that -- (inaudible) minorities -- there are minorities that are still trapped -- there are minorities that are still trapped, and it looks like from evacuees that we've spoken to, it looks like the third world here in the United States.
MRS. BUSH: Well, you know, that -- this is what happens when there's a natural disaster of this scope. And every country that has suffered their own natural disaster -- the tsunami countries, for instance -- know this is what happens. When people are displaced, they're scared, they're frustrated, they're -- they have lost loved ones, they're in grief, they're in grief for their whole life, even if you didn't lose some -- a family member that you loved. You've lost your life as you know it.
And of course, I think people understand that. I think in many ways, it's human. This is a human reaction to a terrible, terrible disaster. And it won't be permanent. It --
Q It looks that way on TV. It looks -- it gives the appearance that so many of the papers are --
Q And because of the response, because of the delayed response.
MRS. BUSH: Oh no, I don't think that. I don't believe that at all. I don't think that -- you know, I don't -- I think what happened is what always happens in this kind of disaster. This is probably the largest disaster our country has ever had -- natural disaster we've ever had. And when you have that many people displaced out of their homes, when you have that big of an area flooded where people can't go back into it -- you know it's not like a hurricane where the water washes in and washes out, you know it's still standing there -- then that's what you see. And it's just -- you know, that's just how -- what happens in a -- this terrible of a disaster.
And the fact is, many times, as we know from watching tornado coverage or any other natural disaster coverage, the poor people usually are in the neighborhoods that are the lowest or the most exposed or the most vulnerable. Their housing is the most vulnerable to a natural disaster, and that's just always what had happened.
MRS. BUSH: Well, I know that the federal government is doing every single thing they possibly can, but the President said today, I think, that he -- I was not with him this morning, I was -- had came over from Texas -- said that, you know, it's not adequate. This response is not an adequate response. This is not the kind of response the federal government wants. We know that we can do it better and that we can get it better, and that's what every single person, not just the federal government, but the local governments everywhere are working on.
And not just the local governments in the affected areas, but governments, local governments a long way away. Pittsburgh, I think, called the mayor today, and Youngstown, Ohio is sending trucks of things. And, you know, people want to help in whatever way they can. And the --
Thank you all, so much. Thank you for coming out and I hope you really will get this story out of what happens when a community like Lafayette comes together and how these people are being taken care of. And there -- bad things are not going on here, and I think that's really important for people to know and to see.
Bye. Thank you all. Good to see you.