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Trump Visits Alabama After Tornadoes Wreaked Havoc And Killed 23 People


President Trump and first lady Melania Trump went to Lee County, Ala., today to see for themselves the destruction caused by Sunday's tornadoes. The Trumps walked through fields of debris. They hugged survivors and stopped at a memorial - 23 white crosses, one for each person who died. Meanwhile, residents continued with funerals and cleanup as NPR's Russell Lewis reports from Beauregard, Ala.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: There wasn't much time for Jennifer Vernon and her husband, Joe, to see President Trump as he toured their now-decimated neighborhood.


LEWIS: The Vernons' home was completely destroyed. This afternoon, a small skid-steer loader was picking up what was left of their house, now strewn across their front yard. Joe says the past week has been difficult.

JOE VERNON: Day by day - that's all you can do - can't give up.

LEWIS: Jennifer was picking through huge piles of debris, looking to see what she could salvage. She found some clothing and a tiny Christmas ornament but not much else. She's been through this before. Her home burned down six months ago.

JENNIFER VERNON: We lost everything in September, so that was all the sentimental stuff that was gone then. Now it's just stuff that we've gotten since then. So it wasn't anything that was of any sentimental value now.

LEWIS: The Vernons haven't heard from their insurance adjuster, and they can't yet think about what to do next. Across the street, Juanita Smith was standing on an elevated concrete pad. It used to be her front porch. Now it's the only thing left of her house. She's 84 and retired and was stacking some knickknacks, plates and shoes, including a fancy, sparkly blue ballroom sandal.

JUANITA SMITH: Yeah, I'm trying to see if anything worth saving. Don't look like it is.

LEWIS: Smith seemed overwhelmed by it all, and she's not sure whether she'll rebuild here or move into her son's home, which is just down the hill.

SMITH: I really haven't thought about it to tell you the truth because it's such a heartbreaking thing to see. So I really don't know.

LEWIS: Smith is sad for the 23 people who died in the tornado and for the loss of her neighborhood, which she said used to look like a lush park. Now she says it reminds her of a landfill. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Beauregard, Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Russell Lewis
As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.