Update: ‘You Are Not Forgotten,’ Trump Tells East Palestine Residents

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio – Former President Donald Trump visited here Wednesday as the village copes with the aftermath of a toxic train derailment that’s left residents and local leaders frustrated with more questions than answers.

During an invitation-only event at East Palestine’s fire station, Trump said he would return to the village to make sure the needs of the community are met in the aftermath of the Feb. 3 train derailment. 

“We have told you loud and clear, you are not forgotten,” he said. “We stand with you, we pray for you and we will stay with you.”

Trump praised local first responders as well as U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, both of whom joined the former president during his brief visit to the Columbiana County community. 

“They’re such heroes,” Trump said. In the 19 days since the tragedy, first responders and railroad workers “have been really incredible” and “gone way above the call of duty.”

Behind local and state officials were stacks of water bottles, which Trump said included his eponymously branded Trump Water, which he was donating to the community along with thousands of gallons of cleaning supplies.  

“The most important thing that we can take from this visit is that we can’t forget about the people of East Palestine because there will be a rebuilding effort. We need to finish the cleanup effort. That’s the most important thing,” Vance said. “But most of all, we need to make sure that over the next six months or the next year, the next two years, that we don’t forget the people of East Palestine that have been affected by this tragedy. You [Trump] coming up here ensures that we do exactly that.”

In remarks that were livestreamed by local media outlets, Trump said the “goodness and perseverance” shown by the community “were met with indifference and betrayal,” particularly by the administration of President Joe Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which he said would not send aid to the community “under any circumstances,” claiming that the disaster did not meet FEMA’s criteria.

That changed, he asserted, when he announced last week that he planned to visit the village. “They changed their tune,” he said.  

Trump said he hoped when Biden got back from touring Ukraine “that he’s got some money left over,” citing $117 billion the United States has committed to the nation, which Russia invaded a year ago, compared with $10 billion from Europe.

“It’s a very small fraction of what we put up, and it affects them more than us,” he said. “But we’re going to find time to come back if necessary. If they don’t come back and give you the treatment that you need, we will be back.”

Residents gather in East Palestine on Wednesday, hoping to catch a glimpse of former President Donald Trump.

Hours before Trump arrived, some residents gathered in the cold rain outside the East Palestine fire station, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former president.

Around 1 p.m., firefighters arrived at the station to be checked for security purposes. Residents who gathered for the chance to see Trump applauded the first responders as they walked toward the station.

Mayor Trent Conaway thanked Trump during his visit for “shedding some light on the situation we are currently in,” and expressed appreciation for other elected officials and firefighters. “This could have been a very different situation if we wouldn’t have such quality firemen,” he said.

“This is the kind of tragedy that should never come on a rural community like this. It’s extremely unfortunate,” Johnson said during the former president’s visit. “But I have stood and watched and participated as this community has come together. I’m convinced that recovery is on the way. I believe this community is not only going to recover, but they’re going to be stronger than they were when they started, and it’s because of the people here,” he continued. “It’s because of the mayor. It’s because of the fire chief. It’s because of the determination and perseverance of the people right here in East Palestine.”

After arriving in the village, Trump’s first stop was at Little Beaver Creek, where he met with area officials before heading to the fire station roughly half a mile from the derailment site.

Earlier in the day, it was announced that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit the village Thursday to meet with community members affected by the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment.

Buttigieg and the Biden administration have been criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike over what some say is the federal government’s slow response to address the safety concerns of East Palestine residents.

Pictured at top: Residents await former President Donald Trump’s arrival in East Palestine.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.