Almost one year after Hurricane Katrina struck America's Gulf
Coast, many residents of the area are still struggling to rebuild their
homes and lives. President Bush met Wednesday with a man who is on a
campaign to make sure the victims are not forgotten.
Rockey Vaccarella lost his house in the flooding that followed the
He has been traveling around the eastern United States trying to draw
attention to the storm victims. When the president heard about his
campaign, Vaccerella got the meeting he wanted most: a chance to plead his
case at the White House.
"Rockey is a plain-spoken
guy," said Mr. Bush. "He is the kind of fellow I feel
comfortable talking to. I told him that I understand that there are people
down there who still need help."
The president said he offered assurances that the federal government
will work with state and local authorities to get assistance to those
still in need, and to cut the bureaucracy and paperwork that some say is
"I know we are coming up on the first year anniversary of Katrina," he
added. "It is a time to remember, a time to particularly remember the
suffering people went through. Rockey lost everything. He and his family
had every possession they had wiped out. And it is time to remember that
Vaccarella said the message he brought to the White House is simple.
"I wanted to remind the president that the job is not done. And he
knows that," he said. "I just don't want the government and President
Bush to forget about us."
But the nation will not soon forget the images of the days and weeks
following the hurricane. The situation was perhaps the worst - the
suffering most pronounced - in the poorest neighborhoods of New Orleans,
where thousands sought shelter in the rapidly deteriorating conditions in
a damaged sports arena.
Federal, state and local officials have all shared the blame for the
slow emergency response. President Bush came under criticism because he
continued his vacation at his Texas ranch when the extent of the
devastation first became known, and because he backed the leadership of
the agency handling the flawed federal disaster relief effort.
This year, he is traveling to the region for the anniversary of the
hurricane to survey progress in rebuilding, and discuss plans for the
future. The White House says he will also be issuing a proclamation
declaring next Tuesday, August 29, to be a national day of remembrance for
all the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and those who gave of their time and
energy to save lives and help rebuild.