Aug 9, 2022
President Biden Delivers Remarks on the Response to Flooding in Eastern Kentucky Transcript
President Biden Delivers Remarks on the Response to Flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Read the transcript here.
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Hal Rogers: (00:00)
On that fateful morning at 3:00 AM, many of you were awakened by a horrible noise, number one. But before that day was out, we had asked the President for a emergency disaster declaration. And that very day he signed the papers, bringing in all sorts of federal help, including FEMA and others.
Hal Rogers: (00:30)
But what a spirit we found in the hills of Kentucky. We love each other, we love our country, we love our state and our county and our community. And we’ll go to lengths to preserve those values that we treasure in these hills. And then the governor took up the cause and has guided it marvelously through these days and weeks.
Hal Rogers: (01:01)
There’s plenty of work yet left to do both on the federal and state level. But we’re also very excited that in the crowd with us today, helping survey the situation, is our own president who is seeing to the needs of this region and doing what he can to help ease the pain.
Hal Rogers: (01:28)
So let me say a word of welcome with you to our governor who has been on the spot over these past few weeks and days. Welcome your governor, Andy Beshear. Thank you.
Andy Beshear: (01:51)
Thank you to Congressman Rogers, who has been a fierce advocate for Eastern Kentucky for so many years. Thank you all for being here. Less than two weeks ago, this region suffered the most devastating, destructive flooding to hit our commonwealth in my lifetime. At least 37, now I believe 38 lives were lost, including four young children. Communities have been destroyed, if not completely wiped off the map. Once again, our people are hurting, facing loss and hardship on a scale that’s hard to process.
Andy Beshear: (02:32)
Eastern Kentucky is a place where flooding is a part of life, but no one has ever seen anything like the historic flooding that hit us on the night of July 26th. Hours of rainfall hammered these mountains, sending walls of debris clogged water, crashing through homes and businesses, sweeping them clear off their foundations, crashing them into bridges. And for some their home’s just gone. We don’t even know where it is. Maybe not one scrap that we can locate.
Andy Beshear: (03:06)
Seeing the devastation firsthand is heartbreaking. It’s traumatic just to witness much less for these families and these children to live through. I talked to a grandmother who was pulled out of the window of her car as it was swept away, just seconds between life and death. Brittany and I sat with a young family as they showed us pictures of the homes that they had worked a decade to build. One that they were so proud of that is a total loss. And as I stood at the site where we lost those four children, nothing remains of that house, but a little plastic swing is still sitting in the back where they would push one or two of those children, the oldest of which was in second grade, the tragedy just comes all that much more home.
Andy Beshear: (04:02)
And it comes just a little over a half a year before the deadliest tornado outbreak in our history took the lives of 81 of our fellow Kentuckians. And it comes amidst a one in a century global pandemic that’s taken more than 16,300 Kentuckians from us. All these people are children of God, taken far too soon. They meant so much to their families, to their communities. And these losses are going to be felt deeply for generations. But while the body is mortal, the soul is eternal, and to those lost we will see you again.
Andy Beshear: (04:40)
The trials and tribulations we Kentuckians have faced are hard to understand. But one thing we’ve proven over and over is that Kentuckians do not break. We may get knocked down, but we don’t get knocked out. Just look at the family right here, and the families over there, hugging on the ones they love. Extended family coming down to support them. Everybody finding a place to stay because that’s who we are. Kentuckians are good people. We open our hearts and our homes to one another. And while this continues to happen to us, maybe it’s because we can take it because of how we lean on one another in times of need. No red or blue, no D or R, just Kentuckians looking out for Kentuckians.
Andy Beshear: (05:25)
My visits here last week reminded me of the wise words of the late Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers. When tragedy strikes, he said, look for the helpers. You can always find the people that are helping. Everywhere I look helpers are stepping up. That is who we are. It’s what we do when the stakes are life and death. Here in Kentucky, during tough times we open our hearts and our homes to one another.
Andy Beshear: (05:51)
Jeremy Creason is a fire chief in Mayfield. I remember talking to him as the tornado was going through and I remember meeting him at first light outside of candle factory, where we prayed for a miracle thinking we’d lost a hundred. Thankfully we’d only lost 13. It was just the other day I was talking to Mayfield mayor, Kathy O’Nan. She was telling me Jeremy Creason had loaded up his ambulance and was driving right here to Eastern Kentucky, despite if he looked around his community, so much work still to be done. She asked, or she told me, that Jeremy asked to pass a message on. He said the people of Eastern Kentucky and the world was there when Western Kentucky needed it. And you could bet that Western Kentucky was coming to Eastern Kentucky in their time of need.
Andy Beshear: (06:39)
We’ve also once again seen the professionalism and outright heroism of the Kentucky National Guard, Kentucky State Police, Fish and Wildlife personnel, Kentucky emergency management and local first responders, who showed up. Just not from here, but from all over the Lexington Fire Department, trying to get to Hazard, couldn’t get through it. So they did over 60 rescues when they first hit water right here in Breathitt County.
Andy Beshear: (07:04)
Mr. President, our Kentucky National Guard is the greatest guard in the country. It’s members remind us that they are us. They are Kentuckians who are our neighbors, who at incredible times get called to service and they never let us down.
Andy Beshear: (07:27)
But for every rescue of our first responders, there were two by community members, neighbors that may have had a kayak. There was a young man in Letcher County with a jet ski, and I’m not kidding, he rescued more than 10 people. Thankfully having that in his garage, risking their lives to help one another.
Andy Beshear: (07:45)
Stories of neighbors rushing from their own flooded homes to their neighbors. And let me tell you, I remember watching a cleanup, talking to somebody, pulling stuff out, saying, “Is this your house?” She said, “No, mine’s two down, but we’re going to finish this one before we get to mine.” And we’ve seen so many outstanding young Kentuckians stepping up. It looks like one may have even given his life in the service of others.
Andy Beshear: (08:09)
We have seen a remarkable response because we Kentuckians are remarkable people. And just as we promised our families in Western Kentucky, we are here for you and we are not going anywhere. We’ll be here for you in the days and the weeks, and the months ahead. We are here until every life and every structure is rebuilt. You are not alone.
Andy Beshear: (08:30)
And we are not alone. We have seen an outpouring of unconditional love from across the country. Millions of dollars, and so many donations have come in. We need to ask, please turn to monetary donations. We have received so much water, so many clothes and the rest. We’re having to find warehouses counties away just to put them in it.
Andy Beshear: (08:49)
And as a state, we are not alone. I’d like to thank the entire team at FEMA, including Deanne Criswell, FEMA administrator, and region four administrator Gracia Szczech, who have been here working with us. The administrator called me the moment a plane touched down that she was in, after I’d called her in the first hours of the flood.
Andy Beshear: (09:09)
I want to thank the American Red Cross. One of the first calls I took. She was there on the other end of the line. I want to thank emergency management and Colonel Jeremy Slinker, as well as every local official that hasn’t slept in more than nine days. And I want to thank the Tennessee and West Virginia National Guard, there are Kentuckians that wouldn’t be here today, but for our neighbors giving their great resources.
Andy Beshear: (09:34)
I want to thank our federal delegation, Senator McConnell and Paul, our entire House leadership, Rogers, Yarmuth, Barr, Guthrie, Massie, and Comer. Everybody was there when Eastern Kentucky needed us.
Andy Beshear: (09:47)
And I am deeply grateful for President Biden and it is an honor to welcome him and First Lady Jill Biden here to Eastern Kentucky. President Biden and his administration have acted with greater speed for that federal disaster declaration, as well as for individual assistance to our families, than I have ever seen.
Andy Beshear: (10:08)
We recently got 100% coverage for a 30-day period, that’s going to help our local communities and get this area dug out faster. And now 12 impacted counties are eligible for individual assistance through FEMA. Every time we have a request, the answer’s been a quick yes, and then how else can we help. On behalf of the Commonwealth, Brittany and I are grateful for that partnership and the attention and love that you have shown for our people.
Andy Beshear: (10:36)
But I have one more important ask for what else can we do. In Western Kentucky and across the country, and we’ve had this discussion, too many people are being denied by FEMA for technicalities. And too little is paid to those that get through the system. The people of Eastern Kentucky have lost everything. Most just have the clothes left on their back. No insurance, no other coverage.
Andy Beshear: (11:00)
Now is the time to fix this issue. And because of this President, FEMA’s doing things to help our people right here, right now that we have never seen done before. And we know under his leadership, it’ll continue. I want to thank everybody at FEMA for adapting with us as our people desperately need it. In these times, even more than most, we Kentuckians lean on our faith. I believe we see God in the response, and that’s a good thing, because we have so much more to do for the people here.
Andy Beshear: (11:29)
In the Book of Joshua, God says, “Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened, do not be dismayed, for the Lord God is with you wherever you go.” In the Book of Jeremiah we’re told, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to give you peace, not disasters, plans to give you a hope and a future.” To the people of Eastern Kentucky, we love you. We’re going to be here with you and this President, and First Lady, are here today to show that you matter to them.
Andy Beshear: (12:01)
Now I’d like to introduce you to a President who has been there in times of disaster, each time we’ve called, and is making things happen that we have never seen before. President Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (12:11)
Well, thank you very much. Folks, I was going to give more formal remarks, but can y’all hear me? Is this on? You know, I got to meet several families. Got to meet the family back here on this side of the road. You see what’s happened to their properties, their trailer, everything they had. And how they’d come together. No complaining, just getting up, just getting up and going to get it done.
Joe Biden: (12:41)
I walked across the road to see another family. One family, gentleman, his trailer is all the way up at the other end of the property, gone. And you know what? 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 having neighbors help us out. We don’t know that the rest of y’all, everybody else should be doing this.”
Joe Biden: (13:14)
I said, “What, you’re kidding me? Seriously, what’re you talking about?” And pointed out that here’s the deal. It is true that the people here in this community in Western Kentucky, and the folks I met in the tornado, they’re not just Kentuckians, they’re Americans. They’re Americans. This happened in America. American problem. And we’re all Americans. Everybody has an obligation to help. We have the capacity to do this. It’s not like it’s beyond our control. The weather may be beyond our control for now, but it’s not beyond our control.
Joe Biden: (13:52)
And I promise you, we’re staying, the federal government along with the state and county and the city, we’re staying until everybody’s back to where they were. Not a joke. And one other thing I raised with the go, we’ve never done this before, but because of a number of things we got done on a bipartisan basis, like a billion, 200 million dollar infrastructure project, like what we’re doing today, when we passed yesterday. Helping taking care of everything from healthcare to God knows what else.
Joe Biden: (14:23)
What we’re going to do is we’re going to see, for example, if they got to put a new water line in in the community, there’s no reason why they can’t at the same time be digging a line that puts in a whole new modern line for internet connections. Why? Why can’t we do that? So this is going to be different. We’re going to come back better than before. And I really mean it. That’s the objective I have. Not come back to what we were before. Come back to better than we were before.
Joe Biden: (14:54)
And I mean this, Gov, and you know I mean it. And I’m confident with your leadership we can do it. Along with the… we don’t call them, we call them county executives, where I’m from, but from the judge here. I’m finding this is something that we can all do. We can get this done, because we’re the only country in the world that has come out of every major disaster stronger than we went into it. We got clobbered going in, but we came out stronger.
Joe Biden: (15:21)
That’s the objective here. It’s not just to get back to where we were, it’s to get back to better than where we were. And we have the wherewithal to do it now with the legislation that’s been bipartisanly passed. So I don’t want any Kentuckian telling me, “You don’t have to do this for me.” Oh yeah, we do. You’re an American citizen. We never give up. We never stop. We never bow. We never bend. We just go forward and that’s what we’re going to do here. And you’re going to see. And I promise you, the bad news for you is, I’m coming back because I want to see it. Thank you very much.
Unknown Male: (15:52)
Am I supposed to introduce you, Judd?
Unknown Male: (15:58)
I think you’ve written.
Joe Biden: (15:59)
Unknown Male: (15:59)
You’re the man.
Joe Biden: (16:00)
All right. Now we’re all going to run laps around. But all kidding aside, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. These people deserve an enormous amount of credit for their courage and their stamina. Thanks.
Unknown Male: (16:13)
Thank you Mr. President.