Note: The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation created a disaster fund for derecho recovery. If you can, please donate at: www.gcrcf.org
CEDAR RAPIDS — A small crowd of both Trump supporters and protesters never saw a glimpse of him Aug. 18 at the Eastern Iowa Airport.
Air Force One touched down at the airport about 11:30 a.m., but Trump only went inside to talk to a dozen or so elected officials and a farmer before leaving an hour later.
He did not tour Cedar Rapids or any area damaged by the Aug. 10 derecho, which packed straight-line winds of more than 100 mph, killing three people and carving a wide swath of destruction through the state.
More: See photos of damage from the derecho windstorm
During a round-table discussion, Trump praised the response to the storm, even as thousands of customers in Cedar Rapids remained without electricity nine days after the derecho.
He also touted his “record time” approval of disaster aid, which came a full week after the windstorm and did not include any assistance to individuals.
Both Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly and Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart noted the need for individual assistance to help pay for items such as tree removal, which insurance does not cover.
“We are Iowans and we help each other,” AbouAssaly said, “but with this scale, we need (more) help.”
Trump noted that Cedar Rapids had received federal assistance in recovering from the devastating 2008 flood.
“Cedar Rapids has had a rough couple of years when you think about it,” Trump said. “But we took good care of the flood… and we’ll rebuild even stronger.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said up to 43 percent of the state’s corn and soybean crops were damaged in the derecho — more than 10 million acres — and 595,000 customers were initially without power.
Outside the airport, a crowd of about 100 mostly Trump supporters stood in the midday sun in hopes of seeing the president.
“I just want to come out and support our country,” said Terese Jurgensen, who lost 15 trees in the storm and was still without electricity at her Cedar Rapids home, where Springs of Life church members had volunteered to help clean her property.
Tanya Burgess held a sign saying “You’ve done nothing for us. Go back to your golf game.”
A tree fell on her home during the storm and Burgess will suffer a long-term financial loss, as well, after her place of employment, the ImOn Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids, also was decimated in the derecho.
“I’m disappointed with the federal disaster help,” Burgess said, citing its lack of assistance for individuals. “It’s not helping the people. I need help and this declaration is nothing. It’s not what they’re promoting it to be.”
She was joined by Barb Ferris, who held an American flag and said she hoped Trump would see her sign that read: “Trump’s a traitor owned by Putin. Russian bounties on American soldiers.”
Ferris and Burgess both wore face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic, but many in the crowd did not, including several people posing with Trump banners.
Doris and Roger Ollinger stopped by the group waiting for Trump while they were at the airport to pick up their son, who is taking a short leave from the Navy to help in storm recovery at their southwest Cedar Rapids home.
“I’m definitely glad he’s in Iowa,” Doris said of Trump’s visit, while her husband added, “our son coming here is more important.”
Related: See photos from the initial days after the derecho windstorm and more from the Eastern Iowa Airport, below.