George W. Bush photo

Remarks to Rescued Coal Miners and the Community in Green Tree, Pennsylvania

August 05, 2002

Thank you very much. Governor, thanks for your introduction. Thanks for your calm in the midst of crisis. I want to thank you and all the good folks here in the State of Pennsylvania who rallied to save the lives and help save the lives of nine valuable citizens.

Today we're here to celebrate life, the value of life, and as importantly, the spirit of America. I asked to come by to meet our nine citizens and their families because I believe that what took place here in Pennsylvania really represents the best of our country, what I call the spirit of America, the great strength of our Nation. So I want to thank you all for coming, for giving me chance to—and giving me a chance to come and share with you the optimism and joy of a historic moment.

First I do—I want to thank Dan Walsh of the Green Tree Volunteer Fire Company for opening up this beautiful house and inviting all these folks here. Dan, I want you to know I'm a proud supporter of the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department. I understand how important firefighters are, paid or volunteer. And so on behalf of a grateful nation, I want to thank all the folks who work here at the Green Tree and all those first-responders who are here with us today. Thank you for being here.

I want to thank Elaine Chao of my Cabinet and Dave Lauriski, who is the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administrator, for being here. They tell me, Dave, you did a fabulous job, and on behalf of our Nation, that's what we expect you to do. [Laughter] Thanks for your good work.

I appreciate Members of the United States Senate—Senator Specter and Congresswoman Hart and Congressman Chabot for coming. I appreciate the attorney general being here. I appreciate State Senator Earll being here.

I want to thank some special citizens who have come today. They're what we call Freedom Corps greeters. They came out to the airport to say hello to me. They represent a program called Jumpstart. These are AmeriCorps workers. They're also college students. Well, at least five of the six are college students. One is a graduate of Penn State; the other go to the University of Pittsburgh.

The reason I'm—asked them to join us here is because I want you to know, America can be saved, one person at a time. You see, this great society of ours can be changed, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. And as we're here to celebrate the victory of life, we've also got to understand there are some lives who are troubled, some lives who are despondent. Some people wonder whether not America is meant for them; they live in pockets of hopelessness and despair. And these six heroic students, people who have said, "Listen, serving something greater than myself in life is an important part of being a citizen," have been a part of what's called Jumpstart. They're tutors to young kids, to make sure the kids have a chance to learn to read and write and add and subtract, have a chance to be a part of this great American experience. And so I want to thank these soldiers in the armies of compassion for setting a great example for their fellow college students and for some of us old folks as well. Thank you all for coming; appreciate you being here.

As I said, we're here to celebrate the spirit of America, and it's represented by a lot of folks here, a lot of people involved with what took place here in Pennsylvania and Somerset. First, the spirit is best represented by the first-responders, the people who were at the site, you know, people who heard the call that one of my neighbors is in trouble, a fellow American is in need. We've got nine people trapped below the earth who might lose their life, and your fellow Americans came to your rescue. They came to work hour after hour, many of them volunteers. None asked, "Where am I going to get my next paycheck from?" All asked, "What can I do? What can I do as an American to help a neighbor in need?"

And so to the first-responders here, I want to thank you for your spirit. For those who volunteered hour after hour to save a fellow citizen, somebody you didn't even know but were willing to sacrifice on behalf of that citizen, thank you for a grateful nation—from a grateful nation. Thanks for the example you set. Thanks for showing our fellow citizens that by—serving something greater than yourself is an important part of being an American. I truly believe the effort put in will serve as an example for others in a time of crisis.

The spirit of America, the best of America was represented by those who spent long hours worrying about the lives of their fellow citizens. The best of America was also represented in the technology and know-how of our mine safety folks, those who on a moment's notice used their skill to devise a way to save life, took a look at the situation, reacted to the environment, predicted what might happen miles below the earth, and responded, and then rallied others. They set up a plan and a strategy. They're—our folks are world-renowned for mine rescue, and the Nation saw why. And there are nine lives here to testify that we're some of the best at rescuing our fellow citizens. The best of America really is the use of our technology and know-how to save lives and to help others in need.

The spirit of America can best be seen with the families who are here. A strong America is America based upon strong families. A strong future for our country depends upon the strength of our family— husband loving wife and wife loving husband, husband and wife dedicating themselves to their children. The spirit of America was represented as family members, wives and sons and daughters and moms and dads, prayed for the safety of their loved one. They spent hours worrying about the lives of somebody they called "loved one." And out of this near tragedy comes the living example of the importance of family.

It was my honor to meet the family members here today. I appreciate—and I know your dads and your husbands appreciate much more than me—the fact that you—the energy you spent on seeing that they came out of that hole alive was an important part of rallying the country.

And that's another part of the spirit of America I want to herald, and that is the prayers that were said by thousands of your citizens—I mean, people from all walks of life. They didn't say, "I'm a Republican. Therefore, I get to pray," or "I'm a Democrat. I pray"; "I don't care about either of them. I pray." Everybody prayed. A lot of people—if I say "everybody," I don't know if everybody prayed. I can tell you, a lot prayed. A lot prayed for your safety. A lot prayed for your families. A lot pled to an almighty God that you were rescued, and thank God the prayers were answered.

But most of all, the spirit of America was represented by the courage of the nine, nine folks trapped below the earth. They had one sandwich and two bottles of water. These are people that had—had found an unshakable faith, not only in their fellow citizens and their families would be pulling for them but faith in God. These are men who, as old Harry Mayhugh * put it, "I just didn't see how we were going to get out." That's what he said, "I don't see how we're going to get out." But he said, "We're going to—we've got to pull together to get out. "

In other words, they understood that they needed to rely upon each other, rely upon the strength of each. They huddled to keep warm. They said prayers to keep their spirits up. They understood they needed to tie together to fight the underground current. It was their determination to stick together and to comfort each other that really defines kind of a new spirit that's prevalent in our country, that when one of us suffer, all of us suffers; that in order to succeed, we've got to be united; that by working together, we can achieve big objectives and big goals.

Here's a living example of people working together to save nine precious lives, to make sure that nine families were reunited. And by the way, it's that spirit that's help us—going to prevail in the big challenges we face around the world, the challenge of making sure that we hunt down every terrorist and bring them to justice, because we love freedom.

It is the determined spirit of America and our optimism and our ability to solve problems which will help us deal with the economic downturn. It is—the great spirit of America will help us eradicate pockets of despair and poverty.

I love to tell the world and our country that out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. And part of that good is a culture that says each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life. If you're a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children with all your heart and all your soul. But part of the era of responsibility also is, you're responsible for helping a neighbor in need. You're responsible for loving somebody like you'd like to be loved yourself. You're responsible for the health of the community in which you live. No, the spirit of America is alive and strong, as we found out loud and clear in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

It's an honor to be here with you today. I want to thank you for the example you set. May God bless you. May God bless your families, and may God continue to bless America.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:57 a.m. at the Green Tree Volunteer Fire Department. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Mark Schweiker, Attorney General Mike Fisher, and State Senator Jane M. Earll of Pennsylvania. The nine miners were rescued from a flooded coal mine in Somerset, PA, on July 28.

* White House correction.

George W. Bush, Remarks to Rescued Coal Miners and the Community in Green Tree, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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