President Bush is marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a pledge that the federal government will continue helping people along America's Gulf Coast rebuild their lives. The killer storm was America's costliest natural disaster.
President Bush says Hurricane Katrina showed that federal, state, and local officials were unprepared to respond to such a disaster. He says the floodwaters also exposed deep-seated poverty that has cut people off from opportunity.
So following the storm, he says he made a simple pledge.
"The federal government would learn the lessons of Katrina, we would do what it takes, and we would stay as long as it takes, to help our brothers and sisters build a new Gulf Coast where every citizen feels part of the great promise of America," he said.
The Bush administration was widely criticized for its slow response to the killer storm which claimed more than one thousand lives and left 80 percent of the city of New Orleans under water. There were also allegations of racism as many of those stranded in the floodwaters were black.
One year later, the president says there are encouraging signs of renewal. But in his weekly radio address, he acknowledged that much hard work still lies ahead as the Gulf Coast continues down a long road to recovery.
In the Democratic radio address, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu said rebuilding in many communities is only now just beginning and as long as tens of thousands of families cannot return home, the recovery, she says, remains incomplete.
"Countless neighborhoods appear as if the hurricanes were just yesterday, and they serve as harsh reminders of how our nation was so unprepared," she said. "Unfortunately, our nation in many ways remains unprepared for major disasters, whether they be hurricanes, earthquakes or terrorist attacks."
Following a review of the government's response to Katrina, President Bush says officials are making reforms that will improve responses to future emergencies. There is $110 billion committed to helping with the recovery - money that Mr. Bush says must be used to reflect the needs, vision, and aspirations of the people of Mississippi and Louisiana.
"This work will require the sustained commitment of our government, the generosity and compassion of the American people, and the talent and vision of people determined to restore their homes, neighborhoods, and cities," he said. "We will stay until the job is done, and by working together, we will help our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast write a new future of hope, justice, and opportunity for all."
The president and Mrs. Bush return to the Gulf Coast in the coming week to meet with community leaders in Mississippi and Louisiana and attend a commemorative service at New Orleans' St. Louis Cathedral.