After getting a first-hand look at the tornado damage, President Obama today reassured Arkansas residents that they are not alone and that "your country's going to be here for you."
"I'm here to make sure that they know and that everybody who's been affected knows that, you know, the federal government's going to be right here until we get, you know, these communities rebuilt, because when something like this happens to a wonderful community like this one, it happens to all of us and, you know, we've got to be there for them," the president said, speaking before piles of rubble where homes once stood.
It's been 10 days since the towns of Mayflower and Vilonia were torn apart by a tornado that killed 15 people as it ripped through over 40 miles of the county.
Obama viewed the destruction from the air and on foot, seeing the devastation in the town of Mayflower from Marine One and walking through what remains of Parkwood Meadows, a Vilonia subdivision that was leveled by the storm. He also spent time meeting privately with families affected by the disaster, as well as first responders and recovery workers.
"Here in Vilonia, the recovery process is just beginning," he said. "It's especially difficult because this town has seen more than its fair share of tragedy. Almost exactly three years ago, another tornado leveled parts of Vilonia, and some families and businesses had just finished rebuilding when they were forced to start all over. But folks here are tough. They look out for one another, and that's been especially clear over the past week."
Obama praised the first responders, saying they are a "testament to the strength of this community, the strength of Arkansas and the strength of America."
"More than any disaster, it is that dedication and that commitment to each other that truly defines this town," he said. "There's a lot of work that remains to be done, but I'm here to remind them that they're not doing this work alone. Your country's going to be here for you. We're going to support you every step of the way. You are in our thoughts and prayers."