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Public Statements

Extending Sympathy to the People of Oklahoma

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, it's with great sadness that I rise today to extend sympathy to the people of Oklahoma, and especially to our colleague, Congressman Cole, and his constituents who have been affected by the tornado. We just heard our President talk about how our prayers and our deeds are with the people of the community. We also just heard Mr. Larson talk about our acting immediately to provide the assistance to the people there; and to the extent that Congress can act quickly upon that, we should.

We've seen natural disasters come and go. They're all terrible. The loss of life is tragic, as well as the loss of homes and belongings. It's very hard to see how people can be made whole, but we are always hopeful that they will be. People say, Where do you find hope in a situation like that? It sits there comfortably between faith--we believe, and therefore we have hope--and the charity of others, that we can work together to come through this.

Whether it's earthquakes in California, storms in the Northeast, or hurricanes in the South, like Katrina, it's always tragic. There's something especially deeply saddening about what happened in Oklahoma City. It reminded me immediately of something that I carry in my heart.

I went to Italy as a representative of President Carter in 1980. It was a congressional delegation to deliver U.S. assistance following an earthquake in southern Italy. In one small town in the mountains that we visited, the roof of the church collapsed. And what was tragic about it that resembles what happened in Oklahoma is that in that church that day was the first grade. They were practicing for First Holy Communion. So every 7-year-old child in that village was a casualty. Every one died.

And so when there's loss of life, of course, it's always tragic. Everyone is a valuable life. But when every 7-year-old in the village dies, it just does something to your psyche. It's so sad. You grieve so deeply. It's so hard to console people. And it's sad to see what happened to the school in Oklahoma City. Twenty little children lost their lives, each one of them precious, all of them the future of the community. How deep the grief must be there. We must try to help wipe the tears away from that community. So many little children.

It was a beautiful sight to see the first responders trying to dig people out--and successfully. There was a picture today of a little boy pulled out from the rubble. Teachers made a valiant effort to cover children so that falling debris did not harm those who were still alive. And so whether it was first responders or teachers or families, it was a community coming together. This community has suffered a great loss of lives, a horrible loss of homes. What was a home became debris in a matter of minutes.

And so I hope that we all know what our responsibility is, because these children are America's children. Those that died have such an impact on the community. We must all appreciate the depth of the grief, the depth of the tragedy that has befallen. I'll never, ever forget the desperate look in the eyes of the people in the village of the mountains of Italy. As I said, we're always hopeful through prayer, which gives us strength; faith, which gives us hope; and the charity of others, which helps us to go forward.

So I hope it is a comfort to the people of the region that their loss is one that is shared and mourned by our entire country, definitely in this Congress of the United States, and across the world. Whatever is in our power to be helpful to them, we will do--and we will do it quickly. Most importantly, they will always and ever be in our prayers.

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