with Pennsylvania Coal Miners
Green Tree Fire Department
Green Tree, Pennsylvania
August 5, 2002
10:57 A.M. EDT
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 an historic moment.
First I do -- I want to thank Dan Walsh of the Greentree 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 Greentree
and all those first responders who are here with us today. Thank you for being
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. (Applause.)
I appreciate members of the United States Senate, Senator Specter and Congressman
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. (Applause.)
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
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 citizens -- somebody
you didn't even know, but were willing to sacrifice on behalf of that citizen,
thank you from 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 moments 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-renown
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 -- 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. (Applause.)
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 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
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. (Applause.)
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.