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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Louisiana Donates Fire Truck to New York

Aired December 19, 2001 - 13:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We are waiting for something we were telling you about just a moment ago. The state of Louisiana is presenting a fire truck to the city of New York. In fact, I just heard President Bush being introduced. I don't know if is he ready to speak yet. But the president will inspect the truck, so to speak, and then it will be taken to New York City.

The president is coming out right now, it looks like, and walking over to see this truck. They have called it -- they have given it the name of the Spirit of Louisiana. And we're told that in attendance at this event are most of the Louisiana state congressional delegation, the governor of Louisiana, Mike Foster, 79 firemen from Louisiana.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOVERNOR MIKE FOSTER, LOUISIANA: Good afternoon. Just a few quick words before I turn it over the man.

First, I want to thank my friend here for taking a moment of his very valuable time to be with us here today. And the president has proven that he's the kind of leader our nation needs during these trying times. Through his leadership, our country now stands united. And I'm proud and honored that he agreed to join us for this occasion.

I am also pleased that we are joined by members of the Louisiana congressional delegation that are here. This is a great day for the people of Louisiana and for the people of New York and our entire country. The citizens of Louisiana have come together, opened their hearts and donated their time and money to help our sister state in her time of need.

I might say here too, Louisiana is one of -- it is the poorest state in the union, but the richest in its heart. I'm glad that Mr. Ron Goldman and his family are here today and we celebrate the fruits of his idea. Ron is right here. He's the one that called into my radio program and suggested this.

Inspired by seeing the president standing on one of the fire trucks while the president was attempting to do what he could at ground zero, Ronnie saw him, saw him standing on a burned down fire truck and that was the inspiration for his call to my program. I like the idea and enlisted the help of my good friend, Representative Hunt Downer, who is also here today along with his family. Hunt is one of those irresistible objects. If you give him a project, it's going to get done. Hunt Downer is no stranger to the president. He successfully led Democrats for Bush in Louisiana and then quit and joined the Republican party.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, speaker.

FOSTER: He spearheaded a tremendous fundraising campaign for Bucks For Trucks and raised well above the amount needed. In fact, we raised twice the amount. And we're going to talk to him in New York about what else we can build for them.

I also want to thank Mr. Chris Ferrar. Where is Chris? Owner of Ferrar Fire Apparatus, who agreed to build this truck...

(APPLAUSE)

He agreed to build it on a handshake. We told him we had the idea and he said, I'm going to start building it. A bunch of his employees gave us overtime for nothing. The truck cost less than a regular truck. And his folks have done just a great job.

At this time, I want to represent -- I want to recognize Mr. Goldman, Representative Downer, Mr. Ferrar, the Bucks For Trucks committee and the many, many firefighters and police officers who traveled across the country to be with us here today. I also want to express my appreciation of all of the citizens who selflessly gave so that we could build this brand new, 29-foot, 42,000-pound pumper truck, all built from the ground up, specifications to New York.

One thing I learned, people, there is no stock fire truck. Every place has a different fire truck. And this one was built from the ground up in Louisiana. The truck was christened the Spirit of Louisiana and will be presented to the citizens of New York tomorrow at a ceremony where the truck will be permanently housed. Again, I can't express how proud I am of the people of Louisiana and our entire nation as we have all come together in the face of adversity.

Now, chief, it's your turn.

BUSH: Thank you, governor.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's an intro.

BUSH: I guess he meant commander-in-chief.

FOSTER: I just call you chief. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the nickname.

BUSH: Well, Governor, thanks for coming. You know, I always loved Louisiana, and I love the people of Louisiana, and I always knew the people of Louisiana were a little different.

(LAUGHTER)

In a good way. And you just showed the nation why. So I want to welcome you all for coming. Thanks for being here, Mike, and good to see the first lady, too. Welcome to the White House and welcome you all.

This Spirit of Louisiana truck really does show the deep concern of the good folks of Louisiana. Everybody in our nation realized on September 11 we were all affected. They night have hit right around the corner here, and they might have hit in New York City, but it affected all of us. And the good people of Louisiana realized that.

I particularly love this story, about how Ronnie (ph) decides to do something on behalf of the fellow citizens, so he gets on the phone and calls a local radio personality: the governor.

(LAUGHTER)

And out of that came a huge volunteer effort in the state of Louisiana to provide help and aid to the good people of New York City. And I think the Americans need to understand that this is the kind of story that makes our country so unique and so different, and it's a story that makes me so proud to be the president of such a great land.

I want to thank the senator for coming. Thank you, Mary, for being here.

I want to thank the two congressmen for being here. John and David, thank you all for coming. Welcome.

I want to thank all the volunteers who worked on this project. I want to thank the firefighters and police officers from the state of Louisiana who have come.

You obviously represent a noble profession, and a profession that really knows no borders. And you're on your way to express your solidarity with people who fight fires. They may talk with a different accent, but they share the same dangers. And I appreciate you all coming. And I know people in New York City are really anxious to have you up there.

One of the things I like to remind the enemy is, you thought you were going to change America when you hit us. You thought by your actions and by your attacks that somehow this nation was so soft that we didn't know how to respond.

And they're paying a terrible price for their miscalculation. We're making great progress in the first theater of this long war to rout terror where it may exist.

I'm really proud of our military. I'm proud of the job their doing. I'm proud of the fact that we've set a clear goal with certain objectives, and those objectives are being met.

I know the governor likes to hunt rabbits down in Louisiana. Sometimes those rabbits think they can hide from the governor, but eventually he smokes them out and gets them, and that's exactly what's happening to Mr. bin Laden and all the murderers that he's trying to hide in Afghanistan. But the other thing that the terrorists don't understand was the strength of America. They didn't understand that. And the strength of America is our citizens: citizens who love each other, citizens who are decent, citizens who when called upon can respond to any adversity.

And that's exactly what is happening on the White House lawn today. People from all walks of life, all political parties, people, some of whom probably never been to New York City before, have said, "What can I do to help? How can I help somebody whose lives have been adversely affected by the evil ones?"

And behind me sits the answer. One beautiful, well-manufactured truck, made by an entrepreneur in Louisiana, who asked his people to work overtime, and they did, to deliver it here today.

I know I speak on behalf of all Americans. Thank you for what you're doing.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, they roused a mighty nation. They roused a mighty nation. And we will not be stopped. We're not going to be stopped overseas...

(APPLAUSE)

... and we're sure not going to be stopped here at home.

I hope every family here and all the folks who volunteered to make this happen have a wonderful holiday season. May God bless your families and may God continue to bless America.

Thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: President Bush accepting a fire truck built just in the last three months in Louisiana and now being donated by the state of Louisiana to the city of New York. And the president, in his remarks, comparing Osama bin Laden to one of the rabbits that Governor Mike Foster of Louisiana likes to hunt. He said, at one point, those rabbits may try to hide from the governor, but eventually he smokes them out. And that is how we're going to get Osama bin Laden.

Our John King joins us. He has been listening and watching all this -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, an interesting analogy there as you just noted. The president, from time to time, uses different analogies to describe the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But yet again, he promised in the end, regardless of the analogy he used -- rabbit hunting today -- that Mr. bin Laden will be found or captured or perhaps killed.

Note also what the president said -- he said the United States was making great progress in the first theater of this long war. The president using even an event like this, largely designed for its symbolic nature, to thank the people of Louisiana and around the country for rallying to help out in the wake of the terrorist attacks. But Mr. Bush making clear again that even as the -- claims military progress in Afghanistan, that is just the first front of what he promises will be a very long war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, John, how do they at the White House plan to sustain -- you know, clearly everyone applaud the president is enjoying right now, really phenomenal, remarkable public opinions, support, for the way he is fighting the war, for the way is he doing his job as president.

How do they plan to maintain that now that the war itself has wound down and it has become virtually a manhunt on the ground in Afghanistan and that area?

KING: They plan to try to maintain that public support by using events like this. Tomorrow is the 100th day since September 11. To mark the 100 days, the administration will release a report detailing all of the efforts it is taking militarily, financially and diplomatically to fight the war on terrorism. Everyday, the president likes to find some way -- likes is probably the wrong term -- but from a political standpoint, tries to find some way to remind the American people of just what happened on September 11, to remind them that he must continue to sustain this campaign.

And as that effort goes on here in the United States, note the trip just yesterday by the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels. He signaled even as the campaign continues in Afghanistan, preparations being made and some initial steps already being taken in future fronts of the war. He mentioned particularly Sudan, Yemen and Somalia as three countries where he believes there are significant al Qaeda cells that the United States and its allies will have to address in the day, weeks, months and perhaps even years ahead.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House.

We are watching the president inspecting, so to speak, a fire truck that's been built in the state of Louisiana. The money to build this was raised by donations in that state. We heard the governor describing that. It's a 29-foot, 49,000-pound (sic) pumper truck. And tomorrow, it will be given to the people of New York.

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