MINNEAPOLIS--President Bush spent some two hours in Minneapolis this morning, viewing first hand the collapsed I35W bridge and meeting with local and state officials and rescue personnel.
Among the persons the president spent time with is Gary Babineau, the 24-year-old Blaine, Minn., construction worker who escaped his own crashed truck to help rescue some 60 children off of a school bus that also plunged precariously close to the swirling Mississippi River.
Babineau walked the president to the scene of the crashed school bus and described the collapse for Mr. Bush.
The president later said, “We have an amazing country where people’s first instincts was to help save lives.”
In addition to offering prayers for those affected by the bridge collapse, the president praised how local and state officials and Congressional leaders were “working in a coordinated way to respond to this tragedy.”
President Bush praised rescuers, saying he was impressed “by their determination” and “by their compassion.”
“We went to get this bridge rebuilt at quick as possible,” Mr. Bush said.
“It’s going to take awhile,” he added, but vowed that he would help “cut through the paperwork” and assigned Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to coordinate the process.
In Washington, a final vote to approve $250 million to rebuild the collapsed bridge is expected in Congress today.
President Bush last Thursday pledged $5 million to help with the emergency response.