Americans must come together
Sen. Richard Shelby, Guest Columnist
Five days ago, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast of the United States leaving in her wake a path of great devastation and destruction. While we have yet to fully appreciate the true loss and cost of this catastrophe, it is certainly one of the worst national disasters our nation has ever experienced.
Hurricane Katrina hit Alabama hard. There are many who lost homes and businesses in south Mobile County, and many others experienced significant destruction across southern Alabama. I traveled with Senator Sessions, Governor Riley and other state and local officials to witness the destruction our state suffered. Seeing the damage from the air and ground allowed me to observe first-hand the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. However, we are no stranger to the challenges and adversity that natural disasters present, and I am confident that Alabamians will come together to recover and rebuild just as we always have.
Those who have been affected by this storm and are in need of assistance should contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (hearing/speech impaired). This line is open 24 hours a day and residents are encouraged to try calling late in the evening or early in the morning to reduce call waiting time. You may also visit http://www.fema.gov/about/process/ for information.
As the extent of the devastation across the Gulf Coast continues to become more evident, Alabamians stand with our neighbors in Louisiana and Mississippi.
We share their heartache and join in their journey down the long and tumultuous road to recovery.
Our nation came together and rose to the challenges following Sept. 11, 2001, and I am confident that we will meet this challenge as well. Congress has approved a $10.5 billion emergency relief package that will aid in the immediate needs of the hurricane-stricken areas.
I also expect that once we have had the opportunity to fully assess the extent of the damage caused by the hurricane, Congress will consider another emergency relief package. I will work closely with my Senate colleagues to craft legislation that ensures communities in Alabama and across the Gulf Coast have the resources and support to recover and rebuild following this devastating storm.
Any future funding that Congress will consider must serve not only the region's immediate needs but economic needs as well to ensure prosperity for future generations. We must also work to restore law and order to these areas if we are to begin the process of recovery and reconstruction.
Americans must come together if we are to overcome this tragedy. The federal government, along with state and local governments, is working to meet the needs of those affected, but it is up to the good people of Alabama and the United States to rise to the challenge, come together and make our nation whole again.
I encourage all Alabamians and all Americans to do what we can to help. The American Red Cross is seeking volunteers and financial contributions. To contact them, please visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-HELP-NOW. You may view an extensive list of relief organizations on my web site at http://shelby.senate.gov/katrina.html.