Bush joins commanders of recovery in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS – President Bush, eager to show hands-on leadership in the Gulf Coast hurricane recovery effort, joined commanders working from a military ship docked in this flooded city on Sunday.The president visited firefighters who have been battling the blazes that persistently erupt across the city, then was sleeping on the USS Iwo Jima. The amphibious assault ship is serving as a control center in the relief efforts.On Monday, he planned to tour the New Orleans area and Gulfport, Miss., in his third and longest visit to the region in the nearly two weeks since Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding struck.Bush began the day in recognition of the fourth anniversary of the other tragedy that has marked his presidency – the Sept. 11 attacks. As he has every year since 2001, the president observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. EDT, the exact minute when hijackers smashed the first passenger jet into the World Trade Center.He left the White House in the afternoon for New Orleans, where he was greeted by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin. Bush shed his sports coat before boarding a helicopter for a brief flight to the ship docked in the Mississippi River in front of the convention center, where thousands of people waited in squalor for several days before being rescued.Upon arrival on the flight deck of the ship, Bush was greeted by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, commander of the New Orleans relief efforts, and Army Lt. Russel Honore, who is coordinating military relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. He then posed for photos with the flight deck crew that has guided rescue flights and the Marine One helicopter that carried Bush onto the ship.Less than an hour after arriving, Bush left for the Algiers neighborhood where firefighters from across the country have turned the campus of Our Lady of Holy Cross College into what they call “tent city,” a staging ground for firefighting operations in the city.He greeted a group of firefighters from New York City who were giving back a rig that the New Orleans Fire Department donated to their department after the 2001 terror attacks. He then went to the mess hall, where he mingled and got a standing ovation as he walked into one dining tent.The president made no public comments during any of Sunday’s events.On Monday, Bush was to get a briefing aboard the ship from Allen and Honore. The president planned to tour New Orleans in a military truck and then get an aerial tour of some outlying areas by helicopter before visiting Mississippi.Hurricane Katrina has been a low point in Bush’s presidency, with his job approval dipping to a record 39 percent in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll last week. Just over half of respondents said he is at fault for the slow response to the hurricane.Democrats piled on the blame. Party leader Howard Dean on Sunday questioned why the federal government was not better prepared for Katrina after the experience of responding to the terrorist attacks.”Sadly, the federal government’s lack of preparation followed by its inept response had deadly consequences for far too many Americans in Katrina’s path,” Dean said in a statement. “The American people are counting on their leaders in Washington, D.C., to do better.”As Sunday’s anniversary approached, Bush has linked the experience of Sept. 11 and Katrina in his speeches and his weekly radio address.Bush’s initial response to the attacks, including a grim address to the nation the same evening, boosted his job approval ratings and came in contrast to a slower recognition of the fallout from Katrina.Bush and other administration officials marked the Sept. 11 anniversary with a simple ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. A bugler played taps. The president, first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, stood with their hands over their hearts as they looked south over the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial on a beautiful sunny day reminiscent of the notorious morning four years ago.The Bushes and Cheneys left after the brief observance, which also was attended by Cabinet members and White House staff, and did not speak. The only other sound was the roar of jet planes landing and taking off at nearby Reagan Washington National Airport in an unscripted yet eerie reminder of the attacks.The Bushes, the Cheneys, and several Cabinet members began the day at a prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Park across from the White House. They joined the congregation in reciting prayers for the victims and survivors of Sept. 11 and the hurricane.The Rev. Luis Leon preached that the anniversary was a time for healing and forgiveness and said the attacks have inspired a new generation to become more politically active. “If they ever wondered why they should bother to vote, then 9-11 and certainly now Katrina gave them an answer,” Leon said.—On the Net:White House: http://www.whitehouse.govVail, Colorado
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