President Biden's trip to eastern Kentucky included time spent with flood victims
President Biden paid a visit to eastern Kentucky Monday. Unfortunately, it was not a time of celebration but a time to lend support to an area still reeling from massive flash flooding just over a week ago.
Air Force One landed with the president and first lady at Blue Grass Airport late Monday morning. After a few minutes with Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton they went from the plane to a helicopter to head to southeast Kentucky.
Presidential visits do impact day-to-day logistics. Cars lined up on KY Highway 15 just outside Jackson, waiting for the motorcade to move out.
"Know why you’re sittin here?...waiting for the president to go back..I asked the state trooper if we could stick our arm out and let him write as he went by”
Phillip White and his three brothers sat in a hot car, first in a long line of cars. They live high up off Quicksand Road and the night of the heavy rain watched neighbors’ houses down below go under water. Calos White talked about people from states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida coming to help. Phillip said a full recovery might be asking too much.
“We’ll probably never go back to normal normal because they was cleaning up from the last flood when this one hit. Still working on it from the last one,” said White.
In the next car, Jake Combs sounded less than optimistic, saying, quote, “it will never be back the same, no, it won’t even be half as good.”
Also waiting on the motorcade were three ladies from Madison and Fayette Counties. They were bringing a second load of donations to relatives who lost their home. That tragic night, Pam Foerderer said the family in Chavies finally got out of their home safely, only to face more trauma.
“Horrible just trying to get them out of their house and to a safe spot and then that entire night they could hear people crying and screaming for help and they couldn’t get to them,” said Foerderer
Coping with a disaster includes moments of heartening. In addition to bringing things like diapers and formula, Foerderer noted they also brought some home cooked food for their family.
“We also cooked for them some cause it’s really tough to be without water and power and things like that so you just kind of miss home cooking so I made dumplins yesterday and my sister made some ham pies and we’ve got brownies, and a cake, and all kinds of goodies in here too,” said Foerderer
Not far away from the stopped traffic, President Biden made his remarks after visiting with several flood victims. He began his remarks by relaying a conversation with one man in the Lost Creek community.
“When I started talking about what we could do he said well you know we Kentuckians don’t want to ask for too much. Catch this, we don’t want to ask for too much. We’re used to have neighbors help us out. We don’t know that you all, the rest everybody else should be doing this,” said Biden.
Phyllis Bush was one of those who met the president. She said she believes Biden can help and will strive to see that everything that can be done will be done. Bush’s daughter Devon said a week and five days later, it remains a strain on her
“Still stressful.. worried about them..can’t talk right now. Just more worried about them than anything. They had just got their trailer and started working on it. We were coming Sunday to dig their septic system for them, and then the flood happened,” said Bush.
Bush would like to see her father and mother move to higher ground, but she’s not sure they will. About the presidential visit, Devon Bush said the fact that he came meant a world to her parents.
And as far as moving out of what’s been home for decades and generations, Jervis Neace of River Cane, noted that is not feasible for many.
“We’re eastern Kentucky people and we’re poor people. It’s hard to lose everything you have and then move to a big city or something. It’s hard to rebuild, let alone relocate. That’s the fact of the matter,” said Neace.
For now, the talk of moving, for many would be a discussion for another day. It’s all about just trying to recover, day by day.
President Biden said the rebuilding process could be used as an opportunity for improvements. He told residents, he’d be back because he wants to see them.