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Bush, Clinton announce relief fund, visit Katrina's victims
The two ex-presidents raised $11 million for victims of last year's Asian tsunami.
HOUSTON -- Former Presidents Bush and Clinton visited hundreds of hurricane victims in Houston's Astrodome and a nearby center Monday, sharing hugs, signing Bibles and listening to stories about the homes and lives that have been devastated.
Together, the two ex-presidents, who raised $11 million for victims of last year's Asian tsunami, announced the creation of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, then spent more than four hours talking with the evacuees.
"They are beginning to think about the rest of their lives now, so I think it is up to us to fill in the blanks," Clinton said.
Corporations including Microsoft Corp., Nike Inc., Dillard's Inc. and the Trump Group have already pledged donations to the fund, and Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Foundation have given $23 million.
Clinton said the federal government's response to the tragedy should be examined, but for now, he said, the focus needs to be on helping the refugees restart their lives.
"There is still a lot of anger. There is still a lot of confusion, but I don't think we should be surprised," Clinton said. "These people lost everything and the experience they had in the Superdome or the convention center was horrible. They didn't have food. They didn't have water. They didn't have sanitation and it was a nightmare."
Bush said that, as a father he does not like the criticism leveled at his son, President Bush, but "as a president it goes with the territory."
Former President Bush played with 3-year-old Terrill Hoskins while sitting on a cot with the boy and his mother at the Reliant Center.
"I am glad that he came and showed that he cared," Denise Brown, 50, said after asking Bush if he could get her some hot chocolate (Bush said he would pass along the request). "We were treated so bad in the Superdome, it wasn't funny. I am so glad to be here to get some help and see that people do care."
Both former presidents indicated that with time the country will cope with the disaster.
"I feel pretty good about what I saw today, even with all of the anger and all of the terrible stories, there is a sense of hope," Clinton said. "The country is beginning to sort through this, figure it out and respond in an appropriate way."
"We have got a country that is in recovery," Bush said. "We have got a country that is optimistic in spite of all this."
Associated Press Writer Juan A. Lozano contributed to this story.
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