President Trump on Friday visited a Tennessee town devastated by a tornado to console victims, and pledged “whatever they need” in federal aid.
In Cookeville, Mr. Trump stood amid the rubble of homes and sheared-off trees on a street where eight people were killed. A total of 18 people were killed in the Putnam County community when an EF-4 tornado packing winds of nearly 200 mph struck, leaving a path of destruction 50 miles long.
“I love them very much, that’s why I’m here,” Mr. Trump said. “I was going to [visit] yesterday, but they asked me for one more day because they were looking for bodies, believe it or not, up until now. It’s tough. One family got entirely wiped out.”
He spoke of an 8-year-old boy who was sucked out of his home by the twister and landed, alive, more than two blocks away. The rest of his family died.
“They found him walking on the street,” the president said. “His parents were killed, and his sister.”
Later, Mr. Trump prayed at the Church of Christ Cookeville with family members and first responders.
“We are with you all the way,” the president said. “When you have those who lost somebody, that’s a very tough situation.”
He said it was “inspiring” to see neighbors and others from around the state donating supplies and food for the victims.
“It’s a case study of what should be done and how it can be done,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s Tennessee. It is indeed the Volunteer State.”
Statewide, the storms killed 25 people and injured hundreds. Thousands lost their homes and businesses.
Mr. Trump approved emergency federal disaster aid for the state; Gov. Bill Lee said the amount needed hasn’t been determined yet.
“We’re very grateful that you’re here,” the governor told Mr. Trump. “Tennesseans are grateful for your support. It’s been a painful, tragic week for our state. Your presence here reminds us that people all across the country care about what’s happening here. We’re going to overcome.”
The president said his administration and FEMA are “working very hard.”
“We love them, they’re special people,” he said of Tennesseans. “Already you see people rebuilding. It’s a great state.”