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Bush Vows More Help for Hurricane Victims


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 hurricane.

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 slowing progress.

"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 people suffered."

Mr. 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. "We 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.