Bush left for New Orleans

President George W. Bush, eager to show hands-on leadership in the Gulf Coast hurricane recovery effort, joined commanders working from a military ship docked in this flooded city.

The president visited firefighters on Sunday who have been battling the blazes that persistently erupt across the city, then was sleeping on the USS Iwo Jima. The amphibious assault ship is serving as a control center in the relief efforts.

On Monday, he planned to tour the New Orleans area and Gulfport, Mississippi, in his third and longest visit to the region in the nearly two weeks since Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding struck the states.

Bush began the day in recognition of the anniversary of the other tragedy that has marked his presidency _ the Sept. 11 attacks. As he has every year since 2001, the president observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT), the exact minute when hijackers smashed the first passenger jet into the World Trade Center.

He left the White House in the afternoon for New Orleans, where he was greeted by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin.

Upon arrival on the flight deck of the ship, Bush was greeted by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, commander of the New Orleans relief efforts, and Army Lt. Russel Honore, who is coordinating military relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. He then posed for photos with the flight deck crew that has been guided rescue flights and the Marine One helicopter that carried Bush onto the ship.

Less than an hour after arriving, Bush left for the Algiers neighborhood where firefighters from across the country have turned the campus of Our Lady of Holy Cross College into what they call "tent city," a staging ground for firefighting operations in the city.

He greeted a group of firefighters from New York City who were giving back a rig that the state of Louisiana and private donors gave to their department after the 2001 terror attacks. He then went to the mess hall, where he mingled and got a standing ovation as he walked into one dining tent.The president made no public comments upon his departure from the White House or his arrival on the ship.

On Monday, Bush was to get a briefing aboard the ship from Allen and Honore. The president planned to tour New Orleans in a military truck and then get an aerial tour of some outlying areas by helicopter before visiting Mississippi, the AP reports.

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