Bentley: State will come back

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s governor mixed three roles in his first televised speech since killer tornadoes hit the state, serving as comforter for the grieving, chief executive for the recovery and cheerleader for the state’s future.

In a speech to a joint session of the Legislature Tuesday night, Bentley said the road to recovery will be long and hard.

“But I will share that road with you, as it leads to a greater and stronger Alabama,” he said.

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On April 27h, Bentley’s 100th day as governor, the state was hit with a string of tornadoes that that left at least 236 people dead. The search continues for bodies.

“We will recover the loved ones who perished. We will do it with the dignity they deserve.

“And we will proceed through this lengthy process with care and respect,” he said Bentley talked about visiting devastated towns across the state, seeing children in the hospital, and working with officials at all levels of government to speed aid.

He also praised quick responses from the public officials to National Guardsmen and firefighters to volunteers. “I can tell you I have been more proud of Alabama than I ever have before,” he said to strong applause The governor said Alabama faces an unprecedented rebuilding effort, with more than half of the state’s counties declared disaster areas. “Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot — and we will not — let these people down.”

As leaders of this state, we will see that Alabama is rebuilt,” he said.

The governor encouraged the Legislature to help by passing the state budgets, approving bills to create jobs and giving the state school superintendent flexibility to deal with damaged schools making up lost days.

Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard said work is almost done on the budgets and the school flexibility bill.

House Democratic Leader Craig Ford of Gadsden said the entire Legislature is ready to work with the Republican governor.

“It is a bipartisan issue. These are Alabamians,” Ford said.

Southern Baptist minister Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizen Action Program, said Bentley showed great compassion Tuesday night, but also challenged Alabamians to stand tall during tough times.

“I was very proud to have him as my governor,” the religious leader said.