President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, visited Beauregard, Alabama Friday to survey the damage left after a powerful tornado roared through the town last Sunday. While there, they visited a row of 23 crosses, one for each person killed. (March 8) AP
BEAUREGARD, Ala. – President Donald Trump toured tornado-ravaged Alabama on Friday nearly a week after storms ripped through a small town, killing 23 people.
The president touched down in Lee County near where a massive tornado spun winds as high as 170 mph on Sunday. Trump had signed a major disaster declaration for the county earlier this week, freeing federal assistance to the region.
The president and first lady Melania Trump viewed the damage caused by the storm as they flew aboard Marine One. The president also met victims in Opelika, Alabama, and received a briefing from the Lee County Emergency Management Agency.
As his motorcade wound through the county, Trump passed through entire neighborhoods that were destroyed, passing by empty lots with broken pieces of metal, wood and what appeared to be scattered clothing.
Trump, alongside Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, surveyed the destruction wreaked across Beauregard on foot before meeting with victims’ families.
“I saw this. And it’s hard to believe,” Trump said. “You saw things that you wouldn’t believe.”
President Donald Trump greets residents during a tour of tornado-affected areas on March 8, 2019 in Beauregard, Alabama. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images)
At one stop, Trump visited with the family of Sheila Creech and Marshall Lynn Grimes, who were killed in the storm. Trump hugged their survivors, and one member of the family showed him Grimes's motorcycle vest and Bible.
At Providence Baptist Church, Trump met privately with nearly a dozen families who were victims of the storm. Afterward, he thanked dozens of community volunteers in the church auditorium, which was filled with clothes, toiletries, diapers and school backpacks. Trump signed several hats and Bibles, including one belonging to a 12-year-old boy.
Emergency crews are doing an "A-plus job," Trump told the crowd, adding that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will remain onsite as long as it's needed.
One of the volunteers, Ada Ingram, who said she knows 10 of the people killed in the storm, said Trump's visit will bring the community closer together.
"I think it’s a godsend," she said of the presidential visit. "The situation is bad. And there are going to be people who will say, 'Why did he come to my town?' I don’t know why. I don’t know why the hurricane happened. But there is a reason."
Before leaving, the Trumps stepped out of the motorcade to stand before 23 crosses erected in front of the church in remembrance of those lost to the tornado. The Trumps held hands and paused for several moments in front of each of the crosses, which were decorated with hearts, stuffed animals, flowers and personal messages.
Earlier, before the presidential entourage arrived in Alabama, Conner Moulton, 7, carefully crafted each marker stroke as he signed a short message on a banner thanking Trump for coming to Beauregard.
"I wrote the 'Beauregard Strong' and 'thank you for your help,'" the second-grader said. "Then I put my first name and my last name. He's helping the people who got affected and lost their homes in the tornado.”
President Donald Trump tours a tornado-affected in Beauregard, Alabama, on March 8, 2019. With him are first lady Melania Trump and Ben Carson (center-right), US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on March 8, 2019 in Beauregard, Alabama. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images)
Lana Ledbetter, a Beauregard resident who did not have any home damage but knew several people who did, came to the high school to put her mark upon the banner.
"It’s just amazing that he’s showing his support for our little tiny community. We’re just very thankful for the funding and just for him taking his time to come and show that support for us."
Trump was accompanied on his Air Force One flight to Georgia by members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Mike Rogers, both Republicans.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at Fort Benning, Georgia, March 8, 2019, en route to areas in Alabama affected by recent tornado damage. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images)
Trump has made several trips to visit victims of natural disasters in recent months, including to California after last year's wildfires and to the Carolinas following Hurricane Florence.
Trump tweeted about the storms on Monday, vowing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide “A plus treatment” to the state.