Woman sitting in the rubble, in protective gloves and tall boots, looks up at the President of the United States, in a navy suit, cap on her head: Joe Biden came on Wednesday to pledge his help to the people of Kentucky , State struck by a devastating storm, in a rare moment of national unity.
The 79-year-old Democrat, after a helicopter flight, strolled through Mayfield, one of the communities most affected by the tornadoes that swept through this rural and conservative state in the southeastern United States last Friday, making it to the minus 74 deaths.
We saw him talk to locals, and stop in the street for a short moment of meditation.
Around him, collapsed buildings, heaps of bricks, wood, sheet metal, where construction machinery and workers dressed in fluorescent yellow are busy.
“What I saw was a bunch of amazing people coming together, helping each other. And who are full of hope. We will stay here until it’s finished and rebuilt, ”he told reporters, ending his visit.
Shortly before, during a meeting with local officials in a shed where food and water bottles are stored, the president had launched: “There are no red tornadoes or blue tornadoes”, in reference in the respective colors of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, his own.
“It is very important that [le président] come. It shows that there are still people in Washington who are interested in rural America, ”Bryan Wilson, lawyer in Mayfield, told AFP while searching what remains of his office for documents. to save.
Same tone for Brad Mills, a 63-year-old orthodontist, who came with his son to assess the damage in the practice built by his grandfather in the center of Mayfield.
“We are divided on so many subjects but here we can find common ground,” he said, referring to the particularly sour political climate in the United States.
“As long as necessary”
In this exceptional meteorological phenomenon, which also claimed at least 14 victims in Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, Joe Biden finds a rare opportunity for national unity, he who had promised during his campaign to bring together the ‘America.
The US president is not going to conquered land, politically speaking: While Kentucky has a Democratic governor, the state gave Republican Donald Trump a very large majority in the 2020 election. And during his visit on Wednesday, reporters saw a Trump name flag on a pickup truck.
Joe Biden had taken care, before his departure, not to politicize the visit.
“The president sees people through the tragedy they are going through – the pain of losing loved ones, of losing their home. […] He sees them as human beings, not as people with partisan ties, ”spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
Joe Biden spoke with great caution about a link between these tornadoes and climate change, while in September, seeing the devastation of Storm Ida in New York and New Jersey, he spoke of a “red alert” climate change and seized the opportunity to praise its major investment projects.
“We have to be very careful. We can’t say with absolute certainty that it’s linked to climate change, ”he said on Monday, only calling the storms of the previous Friday“ unusual ”.