After visiting with residents put out of their homes by last month’s deadly tornadoes, first lady Jill Biden stopped Friday to comment about the resilience she’d seen from the people of Bowling Green and Warren County.
“There is grief all around us for the destruction of the homes and the hometowns, for every life lost,” Biden said. “It will take time to make this beautiful place whole again, but what we’ve all seen today is that there is faith here, too.”
About one month after her husband, President Joe Biden, visited western Kentucky to tour the especially hard-hit Mayfield and Dawson Springs, the first lady stopped in Bowling Green to see the devastation for herself.
Jill Biden walked along a ruined street in the Creekwood neighborhood off Russellville Road, where most of the local deaths occurred and entire homes were swept away by pulverizing winds. She was there for about 45 minutes, speaking to about 20 people, all of whom are residents of the neighborhood. All the houses in the neighborhood had some level of damage.
All around were shattered windows and houses peeled open like tin cans, but also the sound of hammering as workers still labor to mend rooftops. Along Spring Creek Avenue, where the first lady walked, one house on the corner was largely reduced to a pile of freestanding timbers with the walls ripped free.
Here and there, area residents stepped out of their homes to watch the scene, which included Secret Service agents, a motorcade of black SUVs with flashing blue lights and a horde of anxious photographers and videographers jostling for the perfect shot.
Flanked at all times by a roving herd of state and local elected officials – including Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy Beshear, and U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, among many others – Biden stopped here and there to visit briefly with residents, including two little girls who literally jumped with excitement to meet her.
After walking over to visit with local mother Mirjeta Mustafa and her two young girls Ambla and Ajla, Mirjeta thanked Biden for coming and said her eldest daughter, 4-year-old Ambla, got “a little bit injured” in the tornado. She said the tornado was a “nightmare,” according to the report from the White House press pool reporter.
“We are getting help,” Mirjeta Mustafa said, adding “We are so grateful.”
Biden spoke and met with several more residents, comforting them and asking about the rebuilding process, according to the pool report.
Later, after the first lady’s motorcade cut across town, Biden toured the FEMA Recovery Center at the Greenwood Mall, briefly volunteering her time by hanging donated clothing on racks and meeting with relief workers there.
The first lady stopped to read from prepared remarks at a news conference, telling reporters that her and the president’s thoughts had been with the families of Kentucky during the holidays.
“Today, at the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, a time when we come together to serve in our own ways, helping build Dr. King’s beloved community, I want you to know that we are going to keep that promise,” Biden said.
Reading from her prepared remarks, Biden promised a new beginning for Bowling Green and Warren County.
“It’s a beginning that looks like lines of people donating blood for those in need. It tastes like hot meals from food trucks that traveled miles and miles to feed the hungry. It feels like the warmth of a borrowed generator for families with no power. And it sounds like soft prayers of comfort and healing from friends and strangers alike,” Biden said.
“It will take time to make this beautiful place whole. But there is faith here too. There is strength. And there is so much hope, if only we know where to look: In the first responders and volunteers … in members of this community and Americans across the country – sending donations and praying for your recovery,” she continued.
“We have been changed by this tragedy, but not diminished. Instead, we grow, becoming strong enough to hold both our grief and our joy. We bear the unbearable together, with mercy and kindness, turning our faces to the glow of dawn and looking for the sunlight of hope that we know will come,” Biden said.