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President Bush Speaks to Miners and Rescuers

Aired August 5, 2002 - 10:56   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're about five minutes from the top of the hour, and they're just about to get things under way in Green Tree, Pennsylvania. President Bush is there this morning. He's been spending some private time today with those nine miners who were trapped a few days ago, as well as with some of those rescuers who did dug them up.

This is the governor of Pennsylvania, Mark Schweiker. He's about to introduce President Bush.

GOV. MARK SCHWEIKER, PENNSYLVANIA: And, Mr. President, I've got to tell you, they have great sense of humor, too. I'll never forget when I walk into Tom Foy's room, right to my right here. you know he likes his racing, NASCAR racing. It was about 12:55. And I should give you a little bit of background. You know, the Pennsylvania 500 was to be held the Sunday after -- actually the day they came up.

Before I departed the area, I went to the hospital in Johnstown and visited with our nine strong Pennsylvanians,and I walked into Tom's room and I said before I left, I wanted to come by and make sure you're OK and could I visit, and he looked at me, and said, yes, but make it quick, the race starts in five minutes.


Not only are they determined people, not only are they thoughtful people, as now the world knows, they've got a great sense of humor.

And let me say this, and I mentioned it to each of my nine friends -- and it says something about this president's outlook and his heart, and this too, I won't forget, when I had the conversation with our president, he called me and said "anything you need, we will provide." And he did.

And we should acknowledge that with a round of applause.


Mr. President, Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians will never forget, and that should back be acknowledged. If I may, in the company of the madame secretary and David Lauriski, and all of the folks from the federal mine safety operation, just brilliant hard-working people, and we appreciate that hard work and the technical insights they brought to us. It isn't an overstatement to -- David, would you take a bow for us for a minute, Dave Lauriski.


It could not have been accomplished without their efforts and assistance, and each of the nine know that. Let me just finish with this, and give way very proudly so to my president, our president.

I don't know how you were raised, but I was raised the value of good neighbors; you never forget neighbors who come through. I'm proud not only to introduce to Pennsylvania and to you good folks the nation's president, but the nation's neighbor. We will never forget your commitment, and our nine will not forget it anytime soon, too.

The president of the United States -- George Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all. Please be seated.

Thank you very much.

Governor, thanks for your introduction. Thanks for you calm in the midst of crisis.

I want to thank you and all of the good folks here in the state of Pennsylvania who rallied to save the lives and help save the lives of nine valuable citizens.

Today, we're here to celebrate life, the value of life, and as importantly, the spirit of America.

I asked to come by to meet our nine citizens and their families, because I believe that what took place here in Pennsylvania really represents the best of our country, what I call the spirit of America, the great strength of our nation.

So I want to thank you all for coming and giving me a chance to come share with you the optimism and joy of a historic moment.

First, I want to thank Dan Walsh (ph) of the Greentree Volunteer Company for opening up this beautiful house and inviting all of these folks here.

Dan, I want you to know, I'm a proud supporter of the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department. I understand how important firefighters are, paid or volunteer.

And so, on behalf of a grateful nation, I want to thank all of the folks who work here at the Greentree and all of those first responders who are here with us today.

Thank you for being here.


I want to thank Elaine Chao of my Cabinet and Dave Laurisky who is the Department of Labor's mine, safety and health administrator for being here.

They tell me, Dave, you did a fabulous job. And behalf of our nation, that's what we expect you to do.


Thanks for your good work.


I appreciate members of the United States Senate -- Senator Specter and Congressman Hart and Congressman Chabot -- for coming. I appreciate the attorney general for being here. I appreciate State Senator Earl (ph) for being here.

I want to thank some special citizens for coming today. They're what we call Freedom Corps greeters. They came out to the airport to say hello to me. They represent a program called Jumpstart. These are AmeriCorps workers. They're also college students. Well, at least five of the six are college students. One is a graduate of Penn State. The others go to the University of Pittsburgh.

The reason I've asked them to join us here is because I want you to know America can be saved one person at a time. You see, this great society of ours can be changed one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. And as we're here to celebrate the victory of life, we've also got to understand there are some lives who are troubled, some lives who are despondent. Some people wonder whether or not America is meant for them. They live in pockets of hopelessness and despair.

And these six heroic students, people who said, "Listen, serving something greater than myself in life is an important part of being a citizen," have been a part of what's called Jumpstart. They're tutors to young kids to make sure the kids have a chance to learn to read and write and add and subtract, have a chance to be a part of this great American experience.

And so I want to thank these soldiers in the armies of compassion for setting a great example for their fellow college students and for some of us old folks as well.

Thank you all for coming. I appreciate your being here.


As I said, we're here to celebrate the spirit of America.

And it's represented by a lot of folks here, a lot of people involved with what took place here in Pennsylvania, in Somerset.

First, the spirit is best represented by the first responders, the people who were at the site, you know, people who heard the call that one of my neighbors is in trouble, a fellow American is in need, we've got nine people trapped below the earth who might lose their life. And your fellow Americans came to your rescue.

They came to work hour after hour, many of them volunteers. None asked, "Where am I going to get my next paycheck from?" All asked, "What can I do? What can I do as an American to help a neighbor in need?"

And so to the first responders here, I want to thank you for your spirit. For those who volunteered hour after hour to save a fellow citizen, somebody you didn't even know but were willing to sacrifice on behalf of that citizen, thank you from a grateful nation. Thanks for the example you set.

Thanks for showing our fellow citizens that by serving something greater than yourself is an important part of being an American.

I truly believe the effort put in will serve as an example for others in a time of crisis. The spirit of America, the best of America was represented by those who spent long hours worrying about the lives of their fellow citizens.

The best of America was also represented in the technology and know-how of our mine safety folks, those who on a moments notice used their skill to device a way to save life, took a look at the situation, reacted to the environment, predicted what happen miles below the earth and responded, and then rallied others. They set up a plan and a strategy. They're -- our folks are world renowned for mine rescue, and the nation saw why.

And there are nine lives here to testify that we're some of the best at rescuing our fellow citizens.

The best of America really is the use of our technology and know- how to save lives and to help others in need.

The spirit of America can best be seen with the families who are here. A strong America is an America based upon strong families. A strong future for our country depends upon the strength of our family, husband loving wife and wife loving husband, husband and wife dedicating themselves to their children.

The spirit of America was represented as family members, wives and sons and daughters and moms and dads prayed for the safety of their loved one. They spent hours worrying about the lives of somebody they called loved one. And out of this near tragedy comes a living example of the importance of family.

It was my honor to meet the family members here today. I appreciate and I know your dads and your husbands appreciate much more than me the fact that you -- the energy you spent on seeing that they came out of that hole alive, was an important part of rallying the country.

And that's another part of the spirit of America I want to herald, and that's the prayers that were said by thousands of your citizens. I mean, people from all walks of life, they didn't say, you know, "I'm a Republican, therefore I get to pray," or "I'm a Democrat, therefore, I pray," or, "I don't care about either of them, I pray." Everybody prayed.

A lot of people -- if I say everybody, I don't know if everybody prayed. I can tell you a lot prayed. A lot prayed for your safety. A lot prayed for families. A lot plead to an almighty God that you were rescued, and thank God the prayers were answered.


But most of all, the spirit of America was represented by the courage of the nine. Nine folks, trapped below the earth. They had one sandwich and two bottles of water. These are people that had -- found an unshakeable faith, not only in their fellow citizens and their families would be pulling for them, but faith in God.

These are men who, as old Harvey Mahey (ph) put it, "I just didn't see how we were going to get out." That's what he said, "I don't see how we're going to get out."

But he said, "We've got to pull together to get out." In other words, they understood that they needed to rely upon each other, rely upon the strength of each. They huddled to keep warm. They said prayers to keep their spirits up. They understood they needed to tie together to fight the underground current. It was their determination to stick together and to comfort each other.

That really defines kind of a new spirit that's prevalent in our country, that, when one of us suffers, all of us suffers, that in order to succeed, we've got to be united, that, by working together, we can achieve big objectives and big goals.

Here's a living example of people working together to save nine precious lives, to make sure that nine families were reunited.

And by the way, it's that spirit that's help us going to prevail in the big challenges that we face around the world, the challenge of making sure that we hunt down every terrorist and bring him to justice because we love freedom.


It is the determined spirit of America and our optimism and our ability to solve problems which will help us deal with the economic downturn. It is the great spirit of America will helps us eradicate pockets of despair and poverty.

I love to tell the world and our country that out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. And part of that good is a culture that says each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life.

If you're a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children with all of your heart and all of your soul. But part of the era of responsibility also is, you're responsible for helping a neighbor in need. You're responsible for loving somebody like you'd like to be loved yourself. You're responsible for the health of the community in which you live.

No, the spirit of America is alive and strong as we found out loud and clear in Somerset, Pennsylvania. It's an honor to be here with you today. I want to thank you for the example you set.

May God bless you. May God bless your families, and may God continue to bless America.

Thank you very much.

HARRIS: President Bush there wrapping up his remarks in Green Tree, Pennsylvania this morning, sounding almost as if he was either on the campaign trail or at a church service this afternoon, I should say, saying Americans -- America can be saved one person at a time. He went on to describe how that can be done.

Let's go to our Kelly Wallace who is traveling with the president. She is also there in Green Tree, Pennsylvania this morning.

Hi, Kelly.


Well, you heard the president continue to talk about the spirit of America. He talked about the spirit of those rescue workers who worked for 77 hours to try and rescue these nine coal miners. He talked about the spirit of the miner's families. He talked about the spirit of the miners themselves, and then he did something else. He tried to link this all to current concerns really, concerns about the economy, concerns about the ongoing war on terror, President Bush really trying to sound an optimistic note. He says the spirit of America will help the country deal with what he called an economic downturn. He also said it will help fight this war on terror, going after one terrorist at a time.

So the president really, Leon, trying to sound optimistic note here after meeting with these miners. A little bit later, he will be doing some fund-raisers. We know that this is an election year, raising about a million for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, the attorney general here, who is currently trailing in the polls, and then, of course, back to Washington for just a brief time before heading to Crawford, Texas tomorrow -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you very much, Kelli.




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