President Bush is in the southern city of New Orleans marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than one-thousand people and devastated much of the southern U.S. Gulf Coast.
The president and Mrs. Bush joined hundreds of worshippers at St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of New Orleans' famed French Quarter.
They lit candles of remembrance and knelt for a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the first breach of the city's levees, which ultimately left 80-percent of New Orleans under water.
Following the service, President Bush told local leaders at a high school that the challenge is not only to help rebuild, but to restore the soul and the rhythms of everyday life.
"Some of you still do not know whether you have a neighborhood to come back to. Others of you who have made the decision to return are living in trailers. Many are separated from their loved ones, and simply long to go to church on a Sunday afternoon with somebody you care about."
Following the storm, President Bush was widely criticized for the slow pace of the federal response. More than two-thirds of Americans still disapprove of his handling of Hurricane Katrina, according to an Associated Press poll earlier this month.
Mr. Bush says he takes full responsibility for the federal response to the nation's costliest natural disaster - a storm that he says brought terrible scenes that Americans never thought they would see in their own country.
"Citizens drowned in their attics. Desperate mothers crying out on national TV for food and water. A breakdown of law and order, and a government at all levels that fell short of its responsibilities. When the rains stopped and this wounded city was laid bare, our television screens showed faces worn down by poverty and despair."
Half of New Orleans still has no electricity and half of the city's hospitals remain closed. President Bush says the federal government will stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until the job is done.
The Army Corps of Engineers is spending nearly six-billion dollars to repair and strengthen levees to make the entire hurricane protection system better by 2010. The federal government has committed more than 10-billion dollars to pay for damage not covered by insurance for eligible homeowners.
Washington has provided nearly 1.5 billion dollars to small business owners in Louisiana and more than 5.5 billion dollars to repair roads and bridges, schools, water systems, and public utilities.