|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 27, 2005
Mrs. Bush's Remarks During a Visit to the Salvation Army Discovery Recovery Center
12:22 P.M. CDT
MRS. BUSH: Well, thanks again. Thank you all for coming out today again. What we're seeing here at this Salvation Army site is what people can do, what faith-based groups around our country are doing all the way across the Gulf Coast.
This site is pretty much run by the Salvation Army. The food is being cooked by another faith-based group, the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of these people who are cooking here today in Biloxi are from Kansas and Nebraska. They're volunteer medical workers that are here from all over the country.
And I feel so encouraged every time I visit one of these sites across the Gulf Coast. We've driven by the desolation that the hurricane left here. We've seen here -- I've seen here the most desolation that I've seen, because I haven't been that close to the coast until this trip.
But I also see a lot of optimism. I think people are hopeful, and
I want to encourage the American public to keep helping. It's going to
take a long time. And so I want to encourage everyone across the
country to continue to volunteer, to continue to contribute. There are
a lot of websites where you can find out how you can help. If your
school wants to help a school on the Gulf Coast, you can find that by
looking at www.ed.gov
Biloxi started school yesterday. I want to encourage people all along the Gulf Coast to make sure your kids get in school, either in your home town, or in the town where you're staying, if you've evacuated your home town, because it's really important for children to the have the normalcy of going to school, besides not wanting your kids to fall behind in school this year because of the hurricanes.
I feel very encouraged. I want to thank all the people from all over the country who are volunteering here in Biloxi and across the Gulf Coast for helping people. And we see what can happen when governments work with each other, when volunteer and faith-based groups work with each other, when corporations -- earlier we saw the truck that Sears had driven down, the new clothes that were sorted by size so people could really find the sizes they wanted of new clothes for their -- for themselves and for their children.
It's going to take all of us working together to help people rebuild their lives. But every time I visit another place on the Gulf Coast, I'm more encouraged by the spirit of the people who've lost everything. But as one women said to me today, she said, "I didn't lose my life, I'm alive," and that's what really, really matters.
So thank you all. And do you have any questions?
Q -- these folks are literally still living in tents here. What can you tell these people?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm encouraged by their strength and by their stamina. I'm also encouraged by all the people that are helping them. But they're giving me a lot of messages, too. They're telling me things that they think are important. They're worried about their insurance. And that's an issue that people have got to think about here in the -- especially on the Mississippi coast where the tidal surge ruined so many houses. They want their electricity up in their trailers. They want an electric pole up on their trailer as soon as possible. They want to get their kids in school.
I met a lot of teachers today, and they said that only about half of the kids who were in school in Biloxi last year have come back so far. Of course, a lot of those kids are probably staying with family members or in a shelter in another part of the state. But everyone wants to get back to their normal life as soon as possible, and that's what I'm hearing.
Q Is everything being done possible for all these people, do you think?
MRS. BUSH: I think a lot is being done. I mean, I feel very, very encouraged by the ordinary citizens who dropped what they were doing and moved down here to help people, by the first responders, the police and the firemen here, who have been great, as well as the police and firemen who have come from all over the country.
Q How can the ordinary person around the country -- how can they help?
MRS. BUSH: Well, there are a lot of ways you can help. You can
get on the website, www.freedomcorps.gov
There are a lot of ways you can give money still. You can continue to give money to the Salvation Army, to the Red Cross. And that really helps. It's not a great idea to send your old clothes down unless you have sorted them, you have them sized, and they're wrapped, very carefully wrapped that way so that people can really find their size. They still need volunteers everywhere to help sort through clothes that aren't sized.
Q How was your reality TV debut? And why was that the right venue for this?
MRS. BUSH: Well, it was actually very exciting and interesting to be with Extreme Makeover, Home Extreme Makeover. One of the interesting parts about what they're doing here today, they have brought the new clothes that were sorted by size from Sears, and that's what they were doing here, because obviously there's so many homes to be made over here. They haven't chosen one yet. I'm trying to encourage them to maybe choose a school or a library to do, which would help everybody in the community.
One of the people who's on the show with them had her house redone in New Orleans last February, and her house is still okay. It didn't flood, it just got a little bit of water in it. And so she especially wanted to be here. She wanted to tell people you can make it, things will work. And she felt because she had been given the opportunity to have her house redone after she lost her husband and her oldest son in a car accident that she wanted to be able to pass on to people the way people had helped her.
And that's what I think I see around the country, and that is people passing on their own good fortune right now to people who need help.
Q From a personal standpoint, how does this affect you? This is the first time you've seen it up close.
MRS. BUSH: That's right. It's heartbreaking. It really is heartbreaking, the debris, the amount of debris that you know includes people's -- all of the items that people owned, their scrapbooks, their pictures, the things that really meant something to them. It really is quite heartbreaking to see the devastation of it.
And this also reminds me of how huge this area is that's been devastated, from New Orleans all the way to Mobile. It's a really huge area, it's a big area to clean up and to get people back into a normal life. And that's why it's really important that we don't lose hope and we keep working, because it will take a while.
END 12:31 P.M. CDT