President Bush visited flood-damaged neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City today.
His first stop was a meeting at the Linn County Emergency Operations Center with about 50 officials from various levels of government to discuss the situation.
“Obviously, to the extent that we can help immediately, we want to help,” Bush said, “and then plan for recovery.”
Governor Chet Culver and Senator Tom Harkin, as well as former Governor Robert Ray, were among those who greeted Bush when he arrived. “I know a lot of farmers and cattlemen are, you know, hurting right now along with the city people,” Bush said. “The other thing I think is just very important is that the senator and governor have made it clear that, you know, as we worry about Cedar Rapids, we’ve also got to worry about the little towns. A lot of folks are wondering whether or not the government hears about them, too, and I can assure you that I know the governor cares deeply about it and so do we.”
Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran was among those who met with Bush and showed him maps chronicling the extent of the flood damage. “Our hearts and prayers from around the nation go out to the people here. It’s a tough time for you,” Bush said.
The mayor responded, “It is.”
Bush continued: “The good news is the people of Iowa are tough minded people. You’ll come back better. Sometimes it’s hard to see it when you’re this close to the deal.”
Halloran conceded that it would “take time” for her city to recover.
Bush added: “You’re exhausted. I understand that.”
Bush promised a “big chunk” of disaster aide from the federal government is on its way. “We’ll help you recover,” Bush concluded. “Anyway, thanks for letting me come by and see you.”
Harkin then said: “Thank you, Mr. President.”
The group of state, county and local officials broke out in applause as the meeting broke up. Bush climbed aboard a helicopter and flew over the area to view the damage, and the flood waters that still remain outside the normal channel of the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids and the Iowa River in Iowa City.
Bush later took a walking tour of a neighborhood in Iowa City and walked on top of a levee near a construction business in a commercial are of the city. Next stop for the president was a Red Cross shelter where he visited with flood victims and posed for pictures with their children. Bush’s final stop was to thank volunteers who had erected sandbag barriers along Normandy Drive in Iowa City.
Click on the audio link below to hear what Bush said in Cedar Rapids.