On the Situation in New Orleans and the Gulf States

This is a national crisis and a national tragedy. So many people – we don’t even know what the final death toll will be – have been lost to first the storm and then the flooding; lost to problems we’ve encountered evacuating people; even evacuating huge hospitals, even Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The full extent of the loss of human life is not yet known. Certainly we have seen enough to realize that this is one of the most horrific tragedies that we have seen on our shores as a nation. We are seeing children, elderly people without water, without food, without economic means of any sort. They are the most vulnerable and they are being left behind.

As the President said this morning, this is unacceptable, and I could not agree more. This is absolutely unacceptable. This is something that we must move on more quickly and more effectively, to immediately respond and limit the damage and the loss of life that is still going on as we meet and enjoy this beautiful day at the state fair. There will be time enough to figure out what we could have or should have done to try and avoid some of what has happened. But right now, we have got to focus on doing everything possible to get aid to the people who are suffering.

I appreciate the great outpouring of support that has come from every corner of New York. I remember it very well – after we were attacked on 9/11, the entire country rallied behind us. Nobody in a position of responsibility said, “Lets not rebuild Lower Manhattan.” Everybody said, “Let’s get to work, roll up our sleeves, and do what it takes to help New York recover.” We have to and I’m sure we will have the same approach with New Orleans, all of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and those places that were also affected in Georgia and Florida. So I join Bill in urging that everyone do what you can.

I am particularly impressed and grateful, and I want to mention them today because they are both here: Abe Lackman from the Independent College Association and our wonderful chancellor here from SU, Nancy Cantor is here. And Abe, on behalf of the Association and Nancy on behalf of SU, have sent out the word that New York universities and colleges, will take in, free of tuition, free of costs, people who have been flooded out of their dormitories, classrooms. This is a wonderful example of how New York colleges and universities are responding. In fact, Nancy, I have a young man who is an intern for me who is a student at the law school. His brother has lost his chance to go to college this year and he is going to drive down and find his brother and bring him up and he is going to be one of your students at Syracuse. We are going to be sending whatever help we can. We will be looking for ways we can be creative. As Bill said, this is going to be with us for quite some time. I hope we can follow the lead that many of our charitable organizations like the Red Cross and the Catholic Charities, Salvation Army are doing for us. There will be a lot of work for months and months ahead.

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