Category Archives: Disaster

Five Years After Katrina: “New Orleans is Blossoming Again

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Jessie Lee

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the crowd at Xavier University during a ceremony on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans on August 29, 2010. Obama arrived in still-struggling New Orleans to join residents marking five years since flood waters driven by Hurricane Katrina inundated the famous jazz capital. (Photo credit JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)


Today the President and First Lady were down in New Orleans, joined by members of the Cabinet who have been working on recovery from Hurricane Katrina since they came into office.  The President spoke at Xavier University on the fifth anniversary of the disaster.

It’s been five years since Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.  There’s no need to dwell on what you experienced and what the world witnessed.  We all remember it keenly:  water pouring through broken levees; mothers holding their children above the waterline; people stranded on rooftops begging for help; bodies lying in the streets of a great American city.  It was a natural disaster but also a manmade catastrophe — a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, and women, and children abandoned and alone.

And shortly after the storm, I came down to Houston to spend time with some of the folks who had taken shelter there.  And I’ll never forget what one woman told me.  She said, “We had nothing before the hurricane.  And now we’ve got less than nothing.”

In the years that followed, New Orleans could have remained a symbol of destruction and decay; of a storm that came and the inadequate response that followed.  It was not hard to imagine a day when we’d tell our children that a once vibrant and wonderful city had been laid low by indifference and neglect.  But that’s not what happened.  It’s not what happened at Ben Franklin.  It’s not what happened here at Xavier.  It’s not what happened across New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast.  (Applause.)  Instead this city has become a symbol of resilience and of community and of the fundamental responsibility that we have to one another.

And we see that here at Xavier.  Less than a month after the storm struck, amidst debris and flood-damaged buildings, President Francis promised that this university would reopen in a matter of months.  (Applause.)  Some said he was crazy.  Some said it couldn’t happen.  But they didn’t count on what happens when one force of nature meets another.  (Laughter.)  And by January — four months later — class was in session.  Less than a year after the storm, I had the privilege of delivering a commencement address to the largest graduating class in Xavier’s history.  That is a symbol of what New Orleans is all about.  (Applause.)

He told other stories of hope and inspiration, including that of his Surgeon General, “Xavier grad Dr. Regina Benjamin, who mortgaged her home, maxed out her credit cards so she could reopen her Bayou la Batre clinic to care for victims of the storm.”  But he also recognized that there’s more to do, and made clear that his Administration has been working on it:

Now, I don’t have to tell you that there are still too many vacant and overgrown lots.  There are still too many students attending classes in trailers.  There are still too many people unable to find work.  And there are still too many New Orleanians, folks who haven’t been able to come home.  So while an incredible amount of progress has been made, on this fifth anniversary, I wanted to come here and tell the people of this city directly:  My administration is going to stand with you — and fight alongside you — until the job is done.  (Applause.)  Until New Orleans is all the way back, all the way.  (Applause.)

When I took office, I directed my Cabinet to redouble our efforts, to put an end to the turf wars between agencies, to cut the red tape and cut the bureaucracy.  (Applause.)  I wanted to make sure that the federal government was a partner — not an obstacle — to recovery here in the Gulf Coast.  And members of my Cabinet — including EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, who grew up in Pontchartrain Park — (applause) — they have come down here dozens of times.  Shaun Donovan has come down here dozens of times.  This is not just to make appearances.  It’s not just to get photo ops.  They came down here to listen and to learn and make real the changes that were necessary so that government was actually working for you.

So for example, efforts to rebuild schools and hospitals, to repair damaged roads and bridges, to get people back to their homes — they were tied up for years in a tangle of disagreements and byzantine rules.  So when I took office, working with your outstanding delegation, particularly Senator Mary Landrieu, we put in place a new way of resolving disputes.  (Applause.)  We put in place a new way of resolving disputes so that funds set aside for rebuilding efforts actually went toward rebuilding efforts.  And as a result, more than 170 projects are getting underway — work on firehouses, and police stations, and roads, and sewer systems, and health clinics, and libraries, and universities.

We’re tackling the corruption and inefficiency that has long plagued the New Orleans Housing Authority.  We’re helping homeowners rebuild and making it easier for renters to find affordable options.  And we’re helping people to move out of temporary homes.  You know, when I took office, more than three years after the storm, tens of thousands of families were still stuck in disaster housing — many still living in small trailers that had been provided by FEMA.  We were spending huge sums of money on temporary shelters when we knew it would be better for families, and less costly for taxpayers, to help people get into affordable, stable, and more permanent housing.  So we’ve helped make it possible for people to find those homes, and we’ve dramatically reduced the number of families in emergency housing.

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He discussed how his prioritizing health care and education will benefit New Orleans, noting in particular that, “Just this Friday, my administration announced a final agreement on $1.8 billion dollars for Orleans Parish schools.”  And of course there is the matter of ensuring such a disaster never occurs again, which meant restoring accountability and competency at FEMA as well as restoring stability locally:

Now, even as we continue our recovery efforts, we’re also focusing on preparing for future threats so that there is never another disaster like Katrina.  The largest civil works project in American history is underway to build a fortified levee system.  And as I — just as I pledged as a candidate, we’re going to finish this system by next year so that this city is protected against a 100-year storm.  We should not be playing Russian roulette every hurricane season.  (Applause.)  And we’re also working to restore protective wetlands and natural barriers that were not only damaged by Katrina — were not just damaged by Katrina but had been rapidly disappearing for decades.

In closing, having touched on the more recent tragedy of the BP oil spill that befell the Gulf Coast, the President spoke on perhaps the most well known story of perseverence of all:

And when I came here four years ago, one thing I found striking was all the greenery that had begun to come back.  And I was reminded of a passage from the book of Job.  “There is hope for a tree if it be cut down that it will sprout again, and that its tender branch will not cease.”  The work ahead will not be easy, and there will be setbacks.  There will be challenges along the way.  But thanks to you, thanks to the great people of this great city, New Orleans is blossoming again.

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President Barack Obama speaks at Xavier University on August 29, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Today marks the five year anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast and the storm took over 1,800 lives and devastated the region. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images North America)

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Filed under Disaster, First Daughters, First Lady Michelle Obama, New Orleans, LA, Pres. Barack Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama Christens Coast Guard Cutter in Mississippi

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama christens the USCGC Stratton with a bottle of champagne, during a ceremony at the Port of Pascagoula, in Pascagoula, Miss., July 23, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Remarks by the First Lady at Christening of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in Pascagoula, Mississippi

Remarks by the First Lady at a Coast Guard Gulf Coast Oil Spill Briefing in Pascagoula, Mississippi


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First Lady Michelle Obama Visits the Gulf

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Trooper Sanders

This week, the First Lady traveled to Panama City Beach, Florida, to meet with business and community leaders in the area. The past few months have been especially challenging for families and businesses in the Gulf Coast region. The BP Oil Spill is the worst environmental disaster our nation has ever seen, and the effects of the spill are evident not only in the oil washing up on some of the shores, but in the businesses and communities that are suffering.

This Administration will not rest until the well is capped, the oil is cleaned up, the natural beauty of this region is restored, and the people of the Gulf Coast who have been affected by this tragic, ongoing spill are made whole. The President and his tireless advisors like Carol Browner, who joined us on this trip, have been doing everything they can to keep Gulf Coast families and the American people up to date on the Administration-wide response to the Gulf Coast spill, but there was one particular point of great concern that Mrs. Obama wanted to drive home to those families.

“I know that there have been lots of questions lately about how we can best help people here on the Gulf Coast who’ve been affected by the oil spill,” Mrs. Obama said, “And to be honest, truly, one of the best ways that fellow Americans can help is to come on down here and spend some money.” What many Americans may not realize is that most of the Gulf Coast is still open for business. Despite what you’ve see on TV or read in the newspapers, many the beaches, like Panama City Beach, where the First Lady visited, are still clean and safe. And one of the best ways Americans can help this region and the hard working people who live in the area is by coming down and enjoying the hospitality.

For communities like Panama City Beach, summertime is peak tourist season. But this year, many business owners have seen a sharp decline in tourism to the region, despite the fact that their beaches are clean and oil free. If you’re looking for a family vacation this summer, consider visiting one of the many communities in the Gulf Coast region.

Trooper Sanders is Deputy Director of Policy to the First Lady

Remarks by the First Lady at Panama City Beach
Remarks by the First Lady during a Briefing by Officials and Local Leaders in Panama City Beach, Florida

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Kiss My Ash

Posted by: TheLCster

Written by Robert J. Elisberg

We’ve gotten to the point where the public today accepts glib political demagoguery from spokesmen for the Republican Party. Certainly, ideas and discourse exist in the GOP, but they’ve been elbowed out of the center ring. And of course there’s nothing acceptable about it. Because there are consequences to their words.

Mind you, I’m not referring to normal, everyday political razzle-dazzle. Lying, exaggeration, double-speak. That’s the lifeblood of all politics. Democrats included.

No, I’m talking about those who rant what they know not to be true, or don’t remotely believe in, or couldn’t care less whether it’s true or not, solely because the only thing they want is to create divisive anger in crowds and do nothing more than score political points.

There are consequences to their words.

All parties have long had irresponsible demagogues. But it has become a driving force within the Republican Party because of their lockstep march against All Things Obama.

Of course, today’s glib political demagoguery starts further back, fine-tuned during the Bush Administration which took the responsibility of national leadership and played it as if it was paintball. The whole “you’re with us or you’re a terrorist” mindset may have been great politics, but there were consequences. When your game is to destroy a CIA agent fighting that very terrorism, the points you get weaken America.

Glib political demagoguery is the thoughtless game that got Dick Cheney telling Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” That too was fine politics – but there were consequences. A national debt doubling to $12 trillion. A budget deficit of $482 billion from surplus. And all America is digging ourselves out of them now.

This all hit home very clearly over the past month, as GOP glib political demagoguery has repeatedly showed its consequences, in all its devastation.

The most prominent, of course, is the agonizing disaster of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. For two years, Republicans from Sarah Palin, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Steele and beyond, have hyperventilated with their “Drill, Baby, Drill” pontification, not caring its risks, just that it was grand politics for riling up crowds. And now we see the ghastly consequences.

Already 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled. It could reach past 11 million. In only one day, the slick went from an unthinkable 1,150 square miles to over 3.800. It’s growing faster than The Blob, and nearing the pristine Florida Keys. This is an economic disaster of such catastrophic proportions it could impact the climate. And 11 workers killed.

(It’s a macabre observation that oil is the sole area Sarah Palin has claimed supposed “expertise.” That was never expertise, mind you, but we see the naked Emperor’s Clothes laid bare. Imagine now how empty the rest of her non-existent qualifications are. And not a word from her since the disaster.)

Yet within just the past month, this is far from the only gruesome case by Republicans of glib political demagoguery that has resulted in crushing consequences.

Think back if you will to February 24, 2009. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was selected by the Republican Party to deliver its response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. With dripping ridicule, Mr. Jindal derided the Obama stimulus investment of “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.”

Never mind that Sarah Palin, then still governor of Alaska before resigning, let the glib political demagoguery pass. The callousness of this GOP strutting showed itself only a month later, when Mt. Redoubt erupted – in Alaska. There are consequences to glib political demagoguery. Far-greater devastation was only averted because of early volcano monitoring.

But even this isn’t the point. Because, remembering Bobby Jindal and the GOP’s calculated, snide mocking of “something called volcano monitoring,” as if it didn’t matter, as if it was a fake-Socialist, Big Government waste by Barack Obama because he’s Barack Obama – only weeks ago, the entire world saw this:

When Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland erupted, airline travel came to a complete halt throughout Europe. World commerce was suspended. The world’s climate was impacted. There were a billion dollars in losses. “In terms of closure of airspace, this is worse than after 9/11,” said a spokesman for Britain aviation. “The disruption is probably larger than anything we’ve seen.”

And only a year earlier, the GOP spokesman said: “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington.”

I’m guessing they’d like to take back that wisecrack about “eruptions.”

This is why government monitor volcanoes. It matters. It has consequences.

It all matters. It all has consequences.

Again.

And again and again.

Like when you engage in glib political demagoguery to rile crowds and endlessly repeat a snarky mantra for political points by attacking “cap and trade” and roaring that “clean coal CLEAN COAL” is the solution, the only solution, the easy answer, you knowingly ignore that there are consequences. And one is the Upper Big Branch mine disaster with 29 men dead.

Disagreement is good. So, too, is active opposition.

But glib political demagoguery is where the line gets drawn.

Our words matters. When you create anger in others to score political points, dismissive of what the devastating results could be, you do not deserve to be on the stage.

The gravest oil disaster in U.S. history. The biggest airline disaster in world history. A mine disaster leaving 29 me dead. All within the last month alone.

The longer list makes it more shameless.

There are consequences for your words.

Far too many Republican spokesman have tried to gut the United States with a shiv, all for 30 pieces of silver and craven political expedience. Too many others in the GOP have quietly, sheepishly acquiesced and enabled them.

Go. Let the adults talk. Let the good and serious people still in your party – and all parties – have the microphone back. You’ve shown your worth. The world can no longer afford you.

Robert J. Elisberg has been a commentator and contributor to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, C/NET and E! Online, and served on the editorial board for the Writers Guild of America. He has contributed political writing to the anthology, “Clued in on Politics,” 3rd edition (CQ Press).

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Filed under Democrats, Disaster, Environment, Greed, Republicans, Uncategorized

President Obama Speaks on NYC Incident and BP Oil Spill in Louisiana

Posted by: BuellBoy
Posted by Jesse Lee

A Massive and Potentially Unprecedented Environmental Disaster


[UPDATE 5/3/10 8:46PM: Read the comprehensive update from the Joint Information Center for May 3, 2010.]

[UPDATE 5/3/10 6:55PM: A readout of the President and Admiral Allen’s call with local government officials in the Gulf Coast Region.]

[UPDATE 5/3/10 5:53PM: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke more on the details of ensuring BP pays for the costs of the spill in his Monday briefing.]

[UPDATE 5/2/10 9:30PM: Learn more from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ briefing aboard Air Force One on the return trip from the Gulf Coast.]

The President spent the day touring the Gulf Coast area and getting a first-hand look at the ongoing response from the federal government to the BP oil spill (the EPA has also dedicated a site to keeping the public up to date on that response).  After speaking to Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as National Incident Commander, along with Coast Guard personnel, the President gave an update from Venice, Louisiana.  After commending the police officers and citizens of New York who reacted so swiftly to the incident in Times Square, he spoke at length on the terrible situation surrounding the spill:

They gave me a sense of how this spill is moving.  It is now about nine miles off the coast of southeastern Louisiana.  And by the way, we had the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, as well as parish presidents who were taking part in this meeting, because we want to emphasize the importance of coordinating between local, state, and federal officials throughout this process.

Now, I think the American people are now aware, certainly the folks down in the Gulf are aware, that we’re dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.  The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf states and it could extend for a long time.  It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home.

And that’s why the federal government has launched and coordinated an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis from day one.  After the explosion on the drilling rig, it began with an aggressive search-and-rescue effort to evacuate 115 people, including three badly injured.  And my thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the 11 workers who have not yet  — who have not been found.

When the drill unit sank on Thursday, we immediately and intensely investigated by remotely operated vehicles the entire 5,000 feet of pipe that’s on the floor of the ocean.  In that process, three leaks were identified, the most recent coming just last Wednesday evening.  As Admiral Allen and Secretary Napolitano have made clear, we’ve made preparations from day one to stage equipment for a worse-case scenario.  We immediately set up command center operations here in the Gulf and coordinated with all state and local governments.  And the third breach was discovered on Wednesday.

We already had by that time in position more than 70 vessels and hundreds of thousands of feet of boom.  And I dispatched the Secretaries of the Interior and Homeland Security; the Administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, who is here; my Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Policy; and the Administrator of NOAA to the Gulf Coast to ensure that we are doing whatever is required to respond to this event.

So I want to emphasize, from day one we have prepared and planned for the worst, even as we hoped for the best.  And while we have prepared and reacted aggressively, I’m not going to rest — and none of the gentlemen and women who are here are going to rest — or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil on the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of this region are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.

Currently, the most advanced technology available is being used to try and stop a leak that is more than 5,000 feet under the surface.  Because this leak is unique and unprecedented, it could take many days to stop.  That’s why we’re also using every resource available to stop the oil from coming ashore and mitigating the damage it could cause.  And much of the discussion here at the center was focused on if we, and when we have to deal with these mitigation efforts.

Thus far, as you can tell, the weather has not been as cooperative as we’d like on this front.  But we’re going to continue to push forward.

I also want to stress that we are working closely with the Gulf states and local communities to help every American affected by this crisis.  Let me be clear:  BP is responsible for this leak; BP will be paying the bill.  But as President of the United States, I’m going to spare no effort to respond to this crisis for as long as it continues.  And we will spare no resource to clean up whatever damage is caused.  And while there will be time to fully investigate what happened on that rig and hold responsible parties accountable, our focus now is on a fully coordinated, relentless response effort to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the Gulf.

I want to thank the thousands of Americans who’ve been working around the clock to stop this crisis — whether it’s the brave men and women of our military, or the local officials who call the Gulf home.  They are doing everything in their power to mitigate this disaster, prevent damage to our environment, and help our fellow citizens.

During this visit, I am hoping to have the opportunity to speak with some of the individuals who are directly affected by the disaster.  I’ve heard already that people are, understandably, frustrated and frightened, especially because the people of this region have been through worse disasters than anybody should have to bear.

But every American affected by this spill should know this: Your government will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to stop this crisis.

This is one of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems on the planet, and for centuries its residents have enjoyed and made a living off the fish that swim in these waters and the wildlife that inhabit these shores.  This is also the heartbeat of the region’s economic life.  And we’re going to do everything in our power to protect our natural resources, compensate those who have been harmed, rebuild what has been damaged, and help this region persevere like it has done so many times before.

That’s a commitment I’m making as President of the United States, and I know that everybody who works for the federal government feels the exact same way.

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President Obama Makes Statement on Economy and Oil Spill

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by: Jessie Lee

REUTERS: ANOTHER OIL RIG OVERTURNS IN GULF COAST… DEVELOPING…

That Economic Heartbeat is Growing Stronger

President Obama comments on the first quarter 2010 GDP numbers in the Rose Garden of the White House, April, 30, 2010. President Obama is joined by representatives and workers from two U.S. manufacturers, Itron, a Washington state based manufacturer of smart energy meters, and A123 Systems, a Massachusetts based advanced battery manufacturer, that are expanding production and hiring as a result of Recovery Act investments in innovation and technology. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Earlier today, President Obama delivered remarks on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico before talking about the economy. He explained that while BP is ultimately responsible for the costs of cleanup operations, the government has been discussing the response effort with BP and is prepared to help affected communities.

He announced that there are now five staging areas to protect sensitive shorelines along with federal response personnel in the area and response vessels and aircraft on the scene. The President also said that Secretary Salazar will conduct a thorough review of the oil spill and report on additional precautions and technologies that should be required to prevent future accidents.

So, let me be clear.  I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security, but I’ve always said it must be done responsibly, for the safety of our workers and our environment.  The local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake.  And we’re going to continue to update the American people on the situation in the Gulf going forward.

The President then discussed the GDP report released today, which shows that the economy grew at a rate of 3.2 percent as opposed to last year during the quarter when it shrank at a rate of 6.4 percent. He explained that the number shows that the “economic heartbeat is growing stronger,” but that he measures progress by a different pulse – “the progress the American people feel in their own lives day in, day out.” The President stated that “the work of moving the economy forward remains our focus every single day.”

Now, government can’t replace every job that has been lost. That’s not government’s role.  It is America’s business all across the country — the private sector, businesses — that have always been and will always be the engines of our job creation.  Our task, then, is to create the conditions necessary for those businesses to open their doors, expand their operations, and ultimately hire more workers.

That’s precisely what we’ve tried to do by cutting taxes for small businesses; by backing thousands of loans supporting billions of dollars in lending; and by making targeted investments in the areas of our economy where the potential for job growth is greatest -– areas like clean energy.

He talked about Itron and A123 Systems, both companies that were able to capitalize their growth by taking advantage of the Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit in the Recovery Act, which helped several companies hire more workers, add equipment, boost output, and promote American business in the clean energy industry.

In fact, this program was so successful that it was oversubscribed by a ratio of three to one.  That’s why I’ve called for an additional $5 billion in investment into these projects to accelerate the creation of clean-energy jobs in America’s factories.  Because every time a new factory or plant opens or expands in America, it becomes important to more people than the workers it employs; it becomes an economic lifeline to a community, capable of supporting dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of jobs indirectly.

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President Obama Delivers Eulogy At Service For West Virginia Miners

Posted by: Audiegrl

Written by Jessie Lee

To the Families of Big Branch Mine: “Our Hearts Ache Alongside You

President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy during a memorial service in Beckley, W.Va., for the 29 victims of the Upper Branch Mine explosion, April 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today the President and the Vice President were in West Virginia attending a memorial service for the miners lost in the tragedy at Upper Big Branch mine. President Obama delivered a eulogy honoring the lives of those who perished and offering his deepest condolences to the loved ones they left behind.

President Barack Obama walks with Linda Davis, the grandmother of deceased miner Cory Davis, during a memorial for the victims of the Upper Branch Mine explosion in Beckley, W.Va., April 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Vice President offered his sympathies first:

To every member of every family that has been touched by this tragedy, I can say that I know what it’s like to lose a spouse and a child. And I also know when the tributes are done and the flags are once again flying at full-staff, once the miners you see today go back to work, that’s when it will be the hardest for you all. When life has moved on around us, but is yet to stir within you, that’s when you’re most going to need one another.

He concluded his remarks saying, “I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the painful heartache you feel will be replaced by the joyful memory of the ones you love so dearly. My prayer for you is that that day will come sooner than later.”

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attend the memorial service in Beckley W.Va., for the 29 victims of the Upper Branch Mine explosion, April 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President’s remarks in full:

We’re here to memorialize 29 Americans: Carl Acord. Jason Atkins. Christopher Bell. Gregory Steven Brock. Kenneth Allan Chapman. Robert Clark. Charles Timothy Davis. Cory Davis. Michael Lee Elswick. William I. Griffith. Steven Harrah. Edward Dean Jones. Richard K. Lane. William Roosevelt Lynch. Nicholas Darrell McCroskey. Joe Marcum. Ronald Lee Maynor. James E. Mooney. Adam Keith Morgan. Rex L. Mullins. Joshua S. Napper. Howard D. Payne. Dillard Earl Persinger. Joel R. Price. Deward Scott. Gary Quarles. Grover Dale Skeens. Benny Willingham. And Ricky Workman.

Nothing I, or the Vice President, or the Governor, none of the speakers here today, nothing we say can fill the hole they leave in your hearts, or the absence that they leave in your lives. If any comfort can be found, it can, perhaps, be found by seeking the face of God — (applause) — who quiets our troubled minds, a God who mends our broken hearts, a God who eases our mourning souls.

Even as we mourn 29 lives lost, we also remember 29 lives lived. Up at 4:30 a.m., 5:00 in the morning at the latest, they began their day, as they worked, in darkness. In coveralls and hard-toe boots, a hardhat over their heads, they would sit quietly for their hour-long journey, five miles into a mountain, the only light the lamp on their caps, or the glow from the mantrip they rode in.

Day after day, they would burrow into the coal, the fruits of their labor, what so often we take for granted: the electricity that lights up a convention center; that lights up our church or our home, our school, our office; the energy that powers our country; the energy that powers the world. (Applause.)

And most days they’d emerge from the dark mine, squinting at the light. Most days, they’d emerge, sweaty and dirty and dusted from coal. Most days, they’d come home. But not that day.

These men -– these husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers sons, uncles, nephews -– they did not take on their job unaware of the perils. Some of them had already been injured; some of them had seen a friend get hurt. So they understood there were risks. And their families did, too. They knew their kids would say a prayer at night before they left. They knew their wives would wait for a call when their shift ended saying everything was okay. They knew their parents felt a pang of fear every time a breaking news alert came on, or the radio cut in.

But they left for the mines anyway -– some, having waited all their lives to be miners; having longed to follow in the footsteps of their fathers and their grandfathers. And yet, none of them did it for themselves alone.

All that hard work, all that hardship, all the time spent underground, it was all for the families. It was all for you. For a car in the driveway, a roof overhead. For a chance to give their kids opportunities that they would never know, and enjoy retirement with their spouses. It was all in the hopes of something better. And so these miners lived -– as they died -– in pursuit of the American Dream.

There, in the mines, for their families, they became a family themselves -– sharing birthdays, relaxing together, watching Mountaineers football or basketball together, spending days off together, hunting or fishing. They may not have always loved what they did, said a sister, but they loved doing it together. They loved doing it as a family. They loved doing it as a community.

That’s a spirit that’s reflected in a song that almost every American knows. But it’s a song most people, I think, would be surprised was actually written by a coal miner’s son about this town, Beckley, about the people of West Virginia. It’s the song, Lean on Me -– an anthem of friendship, but also an anthem of community, of coming together.

That community was revealed for all to see in the minutes, and hours, and days after the tragedy. Rescuers, risking their own safety, scouring narrow tunnels saturated with methane and carbon monoxide, hoping against hope they might find a survivor. Friends keeping porch lights on in a nightly vigil; hanging up homemade signs that read, “Pray for our miners, and their families.” Neighbors consoling each other, and supporting each other and leaning on one another.

I’ve seen it, the strength of that community. In the days that followed the disaster, emails and letters poured into the White House. Postmarked from different places across the country, they often began the same way: “I am proud to be from a family of miners.” “I am the son of a coal miner.” “I am proud to be a coal miner’s daughter.” (Applause.) They were always proud, and they asked me to keep our miners in my thoughts, in my prayers. Never forget, they say, miners keep America’s lights on. (Applause.) And then in these letters, they make a simple plea: Don’t let this happen again. (Applause.) Don’t let this happen again.

How can we fail them? How can a nation that relies on its miners not do everything in its power to protect them? How can we let anyone in this country put their lives at risk by simply showing up to work; by simply pursuing the American Dream?

We cannot bring back the 29 men we lost. They are with the Lord now. Our task, here on Earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy; to do what must do, individually and collectively, to assure safe conditions underground — (applause) — to treat our miners like they treat each other — like a family. (Applause.) Because we are all family and we are all Americans. (Applause.) And we have to lean on one another, and look out for one another, and love one another, and pray for one another.

There’s a psalm that comes to mind today -– a psalm that comes to mind, a psalm we often turn to in times of heartache.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God bless our miners. (Applause.) God bless their families. God bless West Virginia. (Applause.) And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

President Barack Obama comforts family members of the 29 victims of the Upper Branch Mine explosion during a memorial service in Beckley, W.Va., April 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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AP~They lived and they died pursuing the American Dream, working in dangerous conditions underground to help keep the lights on across the country, a somber President Barack Obama said Sunday in a eulogy to the workers who died in the worst mine accident in a generation.

The president told the families of the workers killed in the Upper Big Branch mine, about 35 miles from here, that the nation would honor their memories by improving safety in the mines.

“How can we fail them? How can a nation that relies on its miners not do everything in its power to protect them?” Obama said. “How can we let anyone in this country put their lives at risk by simply showing up to work, by simply pursuing the American Dream?”

With workers’ families sitting near him – and the Massey Energy Co. executive who runs the mine sitting near the rear of the hall – Obama spoke broadly about the 29 workers killed in the explosion.

“In coveralls and hard-toe boots, a hardhat over their heads, they would sit quietly for their hourlong journey, 5 miles into a mountain, the only light the lamp on their caps, or the glow from the mantrip they rode in,” Obama said.

“Most days, they would emerge from the dark mine, squinting at the light. Most days, they would emerge, sweaty, dirty, dusted with coal. Most days, they would come home. Most days, but not that day.”

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking before Obama, called miners “the spine of this nation” and “roughneck angels.” He said the time would come to account for the safety conditions that led to the disaster.

“As a community, and as a nation, we would compound tragedy if we let life go on unchanged,” he said. “Certainly, no one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood.”

Obama and Biden both noted that the mining industry is more than a source of jobs in coal country – it’s a source of energy for the entire nation.

“The men we remember here today went into the darkness so we could have light,” Biden said. “It was dangerous work and they knew it. But they never flinched.”

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