|The American Presidency Project|
|• Richard Nixon|
|Remarks During an Inspection Tour of Tornado Damage in Ohio.|
|April 9, 1974|
[1.] XENIA (Greene County Courthouse, approximately 1 p.m.)
As I was saying to some people a little earlier, there are four basic problems here when you look at these disaster areas. One is housing, the second is schools, the third is food, and the fourth area, of course, involves the jobs which, we have seen, have been drastically affected by the fact that many of the industries here have been knocked out. But we are concentrating in all parts.
Q. What about the schools?
THE PRESIDENT. As far as the schools are concerned, we have got to help in two different ways. It takes time to rebuild the schools, so in the meantime, we have got to work with the States in providing methods of using the existing schools. It is going to cause some crowding, a lot of other things, but they will be rebuilt and the funds will be provided.
We are also going to provide funds for the private schools. As you know, that has been one of the problems in previous disasters. While public education has been taken care of by the Federal Government and State government, there hasn't been any help for the private schools. But as you know, two private universities are damaged or partially damaged, and I have requested from the Congress authority to help them so they will be rebuilt as well.
Q. Have you seen anything like this before?
THE PRESIDENT. Something similar. As I look back over the disasters--I saw the earthquake in Anchorage in 1964; I saw the hurricanes, Hurricane Camille in 1969, down in Mississippi, and I saw Hurricane Agnes in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-and it is hard to tell the difference among them all, but I would say that in terms of destruction, just total devastation, this is the worst I have seen.
It doesn't mean that the others didn't have great suffering. But for example, when you see an earthquake, and most of you haven't, in Anchorage, you walk along the street there, and you will find a great gap of 12, 15 feet and the houses all down in it, and that is a terrible thing to see.
But here you see total devastation in one area, and then other areas not touched at all, so I would say this is perhaps, when you look at it from the air, the most devastating disaster that I have seen.
As you know, it affects not only the State of Ohio. We have already had disaster declarations in six different States, and the Federal Government is moving in with every resource that we have.1
1On April 4, 1974, following a meeting with the President, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development James T. Lynn announced at a White House news briefing that the President had signed disaster declarations for Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Secretary Lynn's statement is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents [vol. 10, p. 386). An announcement of the President's signing of a disaster declaration for Georgia was released on April 5 and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 10, p. 387).
Q. Mr. President, I am Robert Johnson, B Company---
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, how long will the Guard be here?
THE PRESIDENT. We are checking that out with our people here. We will have you here only as long as you are needed, but I want to say that one of the things we have been very proud of is the way the Guard has handled itself in all these other disasters.
Without the Guard coming in--and I know under very difficult circumstances because basically you are all volunteers-without your coming in and handling these things, we would have a much worse problem. We are very appreciative of what you have done. We will get you out just as soon as the job is done. Fair enough?
[2.] XENIA (Disaster Control Center, approximately 1: 15 p.m.)
Certainly, this is the worst devastation I have seen in the many disasters I have had the opportunity or the responsibility to look at. But as far as the spirit is concerned, it is great.
I haven't found a person yet who said he was going to pick up stakes and get out. And it is really very heartening, very heartwarming, to see people who lost their homes and their schools are down, maybe their jobs aren't there, and they say, "We are going to tough it through, we are going to stick it out."
So, this town will come back, it will come back. I think it will come back and be stronger and better than it was before, and it was a very good town before. That would be my prediction.
I think it is somewhat, as I have said, like what happened to San Francisco at the turn of the century when they had the fire and the earthquake and everybody said it was finished. Well, now it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I have noticed an interesting thing about Xenia, that there are a number of new subdivisions, beautiful homes, that have been built. They are all right. And then I saw right next to them places that were knocked out. So, it demonstrated to me that this was a town, prior to the disaster, that people like to live in; otherwise, those subdivisions wouldn't have been selling.
It seems to me, therefore, that this is going to be an enormous opportunity for home builders, for people who have new businesses, et cetera, to come in here. They will have a good labor force. They will have a town with a high spirit in terms of local community pride, and it is that kind of people that, of course, have made this country what it is. It is that kind of people that will bring this town back.
Xenia has suffered physically, but it has not suffered spiritually. I think the more it has suffered physically, the stronger its spirit has become, and that speaks a lot for the people of Xenia.
Q. Mr. President, can anything be done to avoid the kind of red tape that the people in Wilkes-Barre had to go through?
THE PRESIDENT. That is one of the reasons we are here. As a matter of fact, as you know, we had our Secretary Lynn from HUD in here. We have had also the entire Federal Government when this thing occurred, I got them all in the Office, and I said we are to do everything we possibly can to cut the red tape.
That is why we had this one-window concept we set up as a result of the Wilkes-Barre thing, where a person can come in, where if it is a job, if it is a small business loan, if it is a housing problem, if it is an education problem, there has got to be one place where he can come. That is the way we cut the red tape.
There will be complaints because, as you know, this is not just here, it is in six States. We have signed [declarations for] six disaster areas, so Tom Dunne 2 is going to have to be flying all over. But he has deputies in every one of these areas, and Secretary Lynn will have major responsibility from Washington in addition, and anything that requires Congressional action, you can be sure your Congressmen will be pushing it.
2Thomas P. Dunne was Administrator of the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development.
I am sure the Governor will be raising questions with Ken Cole of the Domestic Council, but the main point that should be made is, as far as the White House is concerned, the orders are out and everything is to be done throughout these disaster areas to deal with those four key problems.
You have to provide for the schools, you have to provide for the housing, you have to provide for, primarily, I would say, to the jobs; I mean, the rebuilding of the industries, both small and large, the farms and the rest, so that people can have the jobs they need.
Q. Mr. President, what other disaster areas have you seen?
THE PRESIDENT. None on this trip. I decided to come to Xenia because it was-I mean, it is hard to say that it is the worst, but it is an area where you have it all wrapped into one. You have the problem of both public and private schools being destroyed. You have the problem of housing. You have the problem, of course, of food, as a result of what has happened on the farms and the rest, and you have also the problem of jobs.
So, under these circumstances it seemed that coming here, I could get a view of what the problem was in this particular area and learn from that what we should do across the country in other areas.
I will be glad to go to other areas if a Presidential visit would be helpful, but the main purpose here is to come and see on the site what it is like. You know, you read about this, we saw it on television, I heard about it; I read about it, but until you walk along and have a chance to meet a few people, see what the spirit of the people is, what they want to do, you don't really know, first, what they have been through, and also you don't know the other factor, and that is that this town is not going to die, this town has the will to live.
It has a combat spirit. It is going to make it, and as long as it has got the spirit, then your Government is going to do everything it can to see that it isn't just spirit alone, that you have the money, the loans, everything else that is needed to be of assistance.
[3.] XENIA (Young Men's Christian Association Building, approximately 1:30 p.m.)
Q. Mr. President, these people need immediate help, sir, no red tape. What can you possibly tell them?
THE PRESIDENT. The reason that I am here is so the red tape will be cut through. We have had a lot of experience in handling disasters, as you know. We had Hurricane Camille in 1969, we had Hurricane Agnes in 1972, and now we have this disaster here.
As I pointed out, of all the disasters I have seen in terms of just total sheer devastation, visual devastation, this is the worst, even worse than an earthquake in Anchorage. That is the closest thing to it that I saw in 1964.
Now, what can we do? What we have set up is what we call a one-window service. That is where you cut through the red tape.
The difficulty in the past is that you have about eight or ten Government programs and nobody knows where to go. So, we are setting up in each area one office where somebody can come in and he can find out about how he gets a small business loan, if he is trying to put his business on its feet; what he can do about mobile housing, if he is trying to do that; what he can do about education; what he can do about getting food, and all the rest.
But the problems, in a nutshell, in all disasters, are the same. You start with housing. People have got to have a place to live. And then you go on to food. People have got to have something to eat. And we are taking care of that with the help, of course, of volunteer agencies.
Then you go to education. You have got to have the schools rebuilt, and until they are rebuilt, we have got to have temporary facilities or have them transported to other schools in the area.
And finally, and probably most important in the long term, are jobs. That is why I am putting emphasis on the fact that every one of the companies in here, small and large, that were wiped out or damaged can get loans which will go beyond their insurance.
What I find is an interesting thing, not surprising. A small businessman told me that he employed 12 people and that his whole shop, which was an upholstery shop, was knocked out.
I said, "Well, how much did the insurance cover?" He said, "Only 50 percent." Well, you see, obviously he is going to need more money in order to get on his feet. And through our small business loans, we are going to provide additional funds for not only the big guys who, of course, we want to provide for, because they provide all of those jobs, but for the hundreds of small businesses in this area.
This is a town that has a lot of small businesses. I realize that a lot of people that live here--it is a suburban town-you go in to work at NCR [National Cash Register] or one of the other companies in Dayton or Wright-Pat, but I like to see a town like this, 25-30,000, with a lot of small businesses moving up.
The other area I should mention is agriculture. I noticed that the farms have suffered a lot, but we are really expert on that because in Camille that was primarily a farming disaster down there in that Mississippi Delta area.
So we are in a good position. We have Government programs set up to help the farmers get what they need to get in production again for the spring crops.
Q. Mr. President, are you satisfied, at this point, what has been done up to this time?
THE PRESIDENT. No one is satisfied until everybody is housed and schools are rebuilt and food is provided.
I am satisfied that we have never had a better effort--more coordinated under the leadership of our Secretary of HUD, Mr. Lynn, and Mr. Tom Dunne, who is also working on it from the White House, we have never had a better effort.
And incidentally, we have had total support from the Congressmen. We are working in close coordination with the State government, with Governor Gilligan, and you have the total backing of the White House on it.
I think that considering the fact that this disaster struck so many areas that we are doing a very good job, but there will be, I can assure you, there will be a lot of instances where people will say, "Well, why isn't my school built tomorrow, why don't I get a house right away, or a mobile house."
Let me say we are going to try to break those bottlenecks as fast as we possibly can and get the help in, and I will issue some orders when I leave today that will, I think, cut through a little more of the red tape.
Q. Mr. President, how do you find the morale of the people?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the most encouraging thing about coming to an area like this is, some lady said to me, "You know, you have really done a lot for my morale coming out here." And I said to her, "You have done a lot for our morale," because when we come and see people who have lost their homes or their jobs or their schools, and when we see these people and then see them smiling and saying, "We are going to stick it out," you realize that that kind of spirit is the spirit that built this country and that is the kind of spirit that is going to rebuild this town. And I would predict--and I won't say how long, within a matter of 2 or 3 years--you are going to find Xenia back on its feet, better than ever.
Some of the older buildings, it is too bad, I notice that one marvelous old building that Bud3 a was telling me was built 100 years ago that was knocked out. Well, that is sad, but on the other hand, there will be a new hotel there, it will be better, and so it will be with the schools and everything else.
3 Representative Clarence J. Brown.
I think you are going to have newer and better schools and housing and also good jobs. And that will happen mainly because of the thing you have mentioned, because the morale of the people of Xenia couldn't be higher. I am telling you, in any kind of competition I want them, certainly--I will bet on them.
Q. Thank you very much.
|Citation: Richard Nixon: "Remarks During an Inspection Tour of Tornado Damage in Ohio.", April 9, 1974. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4171.|
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