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Gore Comforts S.D. Tornado Victims

June 4, 1998

SPENCER, S.D. (AP) _ The Rev. Wade Satterlee lost his wife and his church in the giant tornado that flattened this town. But unlike many fellow residents, he’s not ready to give up on this community.

``We’re going to make this town rise again,″ the pastor told Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday, standing on what used to be the Nazarene church’s front steps.

``We’re going to be the yeast,″ Gore assured him.

Spencer was a dying town, one of thousands dotting the Great Plains, long before Saturday’s tornado, leading some survivors to question whether its worth rebuilding. Much of the population of 320 is elderly.

Gore walked along the town’s main street, picking his way through rubble and mud as he greeted and hugged residents, some sobbing. Many of them, dressed in their Sunday best, had just returned from funerals of some of the six people killed in the tornado.

He also met privately for about half an hour with dozens of residents in a National Guard tent.

``The force of human compassion at work in this town is more powerful than that tornado was,″ he said. ``The entire United States of America is going to stand with you and make certain that the individuals here and the families here and the community itself gets back on its feet as soon as possible.″

Mayor Rocky Kirby said Wednesday that more people are telling him they will stay in Spencer because financial assistance is on the way.

President Clinton issued a disaster declaration for the area on Monday, providing federal aid programs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, temporary housing, individual and family grant assistance and small business disaster loan assistance.

On Wednesday Gore announced additional disaster assistance, including a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to create cleanup jobs for tornado victims. Each resident also will receive a check to cover 30 days of rent.

Bruce Flack showed Gore his damaged house, which had been lifted off its foundation and moved three feet over. ``Here’s where I was at _ right here, Al,″ he said, pointing to a corner in the basement.

Gore wrapped his arms around Phyllis Nemec, whose sister Bev Bintliff was killed Saturday. ``I’m so sorry,″ he said. ``I’m so sorry.″

Lucille Mone, 89, was wrapped in a yellow blanket and sitting on a chair at a street corner so she could point out her damaged house to Gore.

Gore also talked to Spencer’s librarian, Cherie Schroeder, whose mother died in the tornado. Gore assured her that the government could rebuild the library.

``It sounds like we may be back in business someday.″ she said. ``We hope.″

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