Jill Biden says the Biden administration will keep ‘showing up’ to help communities heal from tragedies

Jill Biden says the Biden administration will keep ‘showing up’ to help communities heal from tragedies
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

First lady Jill Biden wants the American people to know that the first family is there for them.

On a day when she and her husband visited two states that experienced vastly different, but nonetheless stunning, tragedies, the first lady told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Bidens want to be there when communities need to heal.

“I think we do that by showing up. And Joe was showing up today in Kentucky,” said Biden, who was accompanied by second gentleman Doug Emhoff. “Doug and I are showing up here in Waukesha. People are not only, you know, hurt physically, but also emotionally.”

Biden made those remarks at Waukesha City Hall after meeting privately with four of the six families who lost loved ones at the parade when Darrell E. Brooks, 39, allegedly drove an SUV into the celebration, killing six and injuring more than 60. Brooks has been charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the incident. He is the lone suspect in the incident.

At the same time, President Joe Biden was in Kentucky, visiting multiple towns that have been devastated by a massive tornado that rolled through almost one week ago. The President announced the federal government will pay for 100% of the cost of the recovery in Kentucky for the first 30 days after the storm and emphasized that he’d put the power of the federal government behind those towns.

“I just want you to know — I’m driving the governor crazy calling him all the time — but there may be things available that would be helpful six weeks, six months from now that you’re unaware of. And so we’re — I’ve instructed my team to make you all aware of everything that is available from a federal level,” Biden said, later telling the group, “Don’t hesitate to ask for anything.”

One of the parade participants who died was Jackson Sparks, 8. Sparks died at the hospital two days following the incident. His family was one Biden and Emhoff spent time consoling on Wednesday, Biden saying afterward about the boy: “Jackson, who loved baseball and catching frogs with his brother Tucker, and who had big dreams.”

Biden and Emhoff were also able to meet privately earlier in the day with the one remaining hospitalized child, an 11-year-old girl who suffered a traumatic brain injury. “We have one more kid to get home before Christmas,” said Andy Brodzeller, a spokesman for Children’s Wisconsin Hospital, where the girl and 17 other child victims of the crash were treated.

Biden and Emhoff, and United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy, later laid a wreath at the memorial for the victims in Waukesha.

When asked what she says to people she meets who are affected by these tragedies, Jill Biden said she encourages them to keep pushing.

“They’ve shown us the resilience and they keep going, they find purpose, and I think that’s the way that you deal with the tragedy,” she told CNN. “You know, look at the (Milwaukee Dancing Grannies), they’ve already been out again. The high school band has already been out again. And I think that’s one way that certainly our family has found to heal.”

Multiple members of the dancing grannies were killed in the incident, but they have begun joining other Wisconsin holiday parades since the late November tragedy.

“What we saw here today, in the face of this unspeakable tragedy, was this community coming together,” Emhoff told CNN. “You could really feel nothing to do about politics or anything, it only had to do with this community coming together to help each other get through this.”

In addition to meeting with those affected by the parade, Biden, Emhoff and Murphy pulled double duty at the children’s hospital, promoting and making remarks about the importance of getting children 5 and over vaccinated. That portion of the Wisconsin visit was part of the first lady’s ongoing tour, the point of which is to encourage vaccination against Covid-19.

Biden, and Emhoff, have been regular messengers for the administration on topics ranging from vaccines to the President’s Build Back Better program.

Biden has traveled to 35 states so far as first lady, and inordinate amount of travel for a first lady, and more than her husband; Emhoff has had a similarly intense schedule, visiting 31 states.

“Jill and I are very similar. It’s like we just raise our hand and do what’s needed to help, not only our spouses — we love our spouses, obviously — but it’s really to help the President, the vice president, this entire administration,” said Emhoff. “By doing that, if we have to travel all over this country to do that, we’re gonna do that.”

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