President Donald Trump met with victims and families on Friday in Tennessee after a series of tornadoes hit Nashville and surrounding towns.
Reporters were kept away from hearing his full conversations with the group of storm victims and members of their families, but as Trump spoke privately to the group of people, many of them began applauding and shouted “Amen!” according to footage streamed live by White House press cameras.
At another point in the conversation, Trump pointed at the sky, as he typically does when referring to God or a loved one who has passed away.
“We’re a big family; we support you,” one man said to Trump as the others agreed. “We’re going to support you again.”
At least 25 people were killed in the storms.
The president also met survivors at the Jefferson Avenue Church Of Christ in Cookeville, where a crowd of about 100 people from the area was gathered with emergency supplies for those affected by the storm.
“This is inspiring to see the way it all came together,” Trump said. “Even all of this — Churches of Christ — tremendous amounts of food and goods, and it all came within a matter of hours.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) joined the president as well as other local officials and Gov. Bill Lee (R), who led the group in prayer.
“It’s a case study — a case study of what should be done and how it can be done,” Trump replied. “It’s Tennessee.”
“The Volunteer State,” Blackburn added.
“It is indeed the Volunteer State,” Trump continued. “Thank you all very much. Great job.”
The president also spoke to reporters after touring the damage wearing a flight jacket and a “Keep America Great” campaign hat.
“Obviously anybody in these homes, for the most part, were killed,” Trump said to reporters. “Given very little warning. … Boom, it’s on them. It just appeared.”
He shared support for the victims of the storms and their loved ones after witnessing the devastation caused by the storm.
“We love them. They’re special people. It’s an incredible place, incredible state, tremendous heart,” he said. “Already you see people rebuilding. I mean it took place literally hours ago. … A couple of days and they are already rebuilding.”
Trump shared the story he heard of one boy who was pulled out of his house by the storm and dropped off blocks away from his home.
“There was one case, I heard an eight-year-old boy was ripped out, flown to a certain area, and dropped off at the street, two or three blocks away,” Trump said. “He said, ‘I just flew in the air … I was carried by the air away from my house,’ and his parents were killed and his sister.”
One local official described the scene as a “war zone,” thanking the first responders for rushing to their assistance.
Another official said that people were hit so suddenly they were found disoriented wandering around outside.
One official told the story of another man who huddled over his wife and child and was killed after he was sucked out of his house, but his wife and kids survived.
One man spoke to Trump, telling the story of how they had no warning but were woken by the storm and huddled downstairs. He said his baby daughter was fine, but his two-year-old daughter was in the intensive care unit.
Trump spent several minutes speaking with people who lived in the area about their experiences and what they had lost.
“I love them. I love them very much; that’s why I’m here. … There was no way that I was not going to stop here first,” he said to reporters. “God be with them. And we’re going to be with them all the way.”