WASHINGTON – President Bush cautioned against placing too much importance on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's Gulf Coast strike, saying Wednesday it will take a long, sustained effort to rebuild the area.
"It's a time to remember that people suffered and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."
The president promised to continue working to make sure the federal government's efforts in the rebuilding effort are efficient.
"To the extent that there still are bureaucratic hurdles and the need for the federal government to help eradicate those hurdles, we want to do that," Bush said.
A day earlier, the Bush administration's Gulf Coast coordinator, Don Powell, said only $44 billion has been spent to get the battered region back on its feet. More than $110 billion has been designated for the massive rebuilding project — $17 billion of which is to help rebuild an estimated 204,000 homes in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Bush spoke on the South Lawn of the White House after meeting in the Oval Office with a New Orleans-area man who lost his home in the storm. Rockey Vaccarella, 41, of Meraux in St. Bernard Parish, has been traveling the Gulf Coast region to mark the Katrina anniversary.
Vaccarella said he wanted to thank Bush for the federally provided trailers that have provided temporary housing to many in the region who lost homes, but also to keep the pressure on.
"I wanted to remind the president that the job's not done and he knows that," Vaccarell said. "I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us."