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President Barack Obama will join Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey on Wednesday to tour damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, the White House announced this afternoon. According to the official press release, Obama and Christie will survey the damage and speak with victims and first responders in the Garden State, which has been left ravaged by the storm.
The event will take place in lieu of Wednesday’s scheduled campaign events, which the Obama campaign cancelled today in order to allow the president to devote his attention to federal disaster relief efforts.
Obama has been off of the campaign trail since Monday, when he returned to the White House to focus on Sandy. During a visit to the Red Cross in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, he told volunteers and reporters that the “storm is not yet over,” according to the White House pool report.
Obama added that his most important message to people is that, “America is with you. We are standing behind you, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.”
The president said he spoke to governors and mayors in affected states earlier Tuesday, specifically naming New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I want to praise them for the extraordinary work that they have done,” he said. “Sadly, we are getting more experience with these kinds of big-impact storms along the East Coast. And the preparation shows.”
Obama added that he has instructed federal agencies: “Do not figure out why we can’t do something. I want you to figure out how we do something. I want you to cut through red tape; I want you to cut through the bureaucracy. There is no excuse for inaction at this point. I want every agency moving forward to make sure we are getting the resources where they are needed as quickly as possible.”
“I told the mayors and governors if they’re getting no for an answer somewhere in the federal government, they can call me personally at the White House,” he said.
Via the pool report:
Obama wrapped up by saying that even “during the darkness of the storm,” people also saw “the brightest in America.” He described images from Monday night of nurses at NYU Hospital “carrying newborns to safety” after the hospital lost power, and firefighters in Queens “waist-deep in water” rescuing people. He said one of his favourite stories was when the Coast Guard in North Carolina sent a rescue swimmer to a sinking ship and the swimmer greeted the ship by saying, “Hi. I’m Dan. I understand you guys need a ride.”
“That kind of spirit of resilience and strength, but most importantly looking out for one another — that’s why we always bounce back from these kinds of disasters,” Obama said. “This is a tough time for a lot of people…. But America’s tough. And we’re tougher because we pull together and we leave nobody behind. We make sure we respond as a nation.”
*This post has been updated to include Obama’s remarks at the Red Cross.
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