President Donald Trump and the First Lady surveyed the devastation wrought by a powerful tornado that ripped through a rural Alabama town on Friday. The storm uprooted trees, tore homes from their foundations and killed nearly two dozen people.
“We saw things that you wouldn’t believe,” said Trump.
Trump and Melania spent the afternoon meeting with survivors, victims’ families and volunteers trying to rebuild after the massive tornado created a path of devastation nearly a mile wide.
The massive tornado killed 23 people, including four children and a couple in their 80s, with ten victims belonging to a single extended family.
President Trump and his wife also visited a church serving as a makeshift disaster relief center for survivors. He later observed a moment of silence before white wooden crosses commemorating each of the victims. He shook his head as he stood in front of one, which had been decorated with a tiny pair of children’s sneakers.
Trump has, at times, struggled with his role as presidential comforter. He marveled at a yacht that floodwaters had deposited on a family’s property during a trip to the Carolinas.
“At least you got a nice boat out of the deal,” Trump told the family. He was caught on camera telling a person to whom he had just handed food to “have a good time.”
Before leaving the church, Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grade volunteer and signed the child’s Bible, said Ada Ingram, a local volunteer. Ingram said the president also signed her sister’s Bible.
The pastor, Rusty Sowell, said the president’s visit was uplifting and will help bring attention to a community that will need a long time to recover.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Sowell said.
Earlier, Trump spent time with three families who lost loved ones, hearing their stories and dispensing hugs. He also met privately with survivors and family members, including a woman mourning the loss of 10 relatives.
“What they’ve been through is incredible,” Trump said after emerging from the meeting.