Trump visits East Palestine, attendees react

Story by Jacob Hansen and Ty Kohler

Former President Donald Trump visited East Palestine on Feb. 22 to show his support and hand out supplies.

On Feb. 4, a mechanical issue caused 38 of 151 train cars to derail in East Palestine. Some of the train cars included hazardous materials and chemicals. On Feb. 6, authorities released a controlled explosion, releasing chemicals from five tankers. A massive black cloud of smoke formed and now residents are feeling side effects like headaches, dizziness and nausea.

On the day of Trump’s visit, people could be seen with MAGA hats, shirts, and signs. The streets were filled with red, white, and blue as “Trump 24,” “We want Trump,” and other chants were yelled as the people waited for Trump’s arrival.

Trump brought palettes of water and bought Big Macs from McDonald’s for first responders from the fire and police departments. He then addressed the people of East Palestine in attendance and the media in a closed press conference inside the fire department.

Todd Gerhart, a Trump supporter and vendor, travels the country and hands out bottles of honey shaped like Trump. He calls them “Make Honey Great Again.”

“I’m from Charleston, South Carolina and I drove 11 hours to get here,” Gerhart said. “We are fundraisers. We are donating all the profits from our sales today to the East Palestine people.”

Gerhart met Trump last year while selling his honey. Gerhart has been following and supporting him ever since.

“This should not be a political thing. These are not Republicans or Democrats. These are people that need help,” Gerhart said. “That being said, Biden turned down an invitation to come here until Trump did.”

Susie Bauman, the aunt of an East Palestine resident, was skeptical of Trump’s arrival.

She felt he was only visiting “for political reasons,” Bauman said. “The governors do it too for political reasons, but they care.”

“He donated water, big deal. Everyone is donating water,” Bauman added. “He also brought cleaning supplies. He doesn’t even clean his own golden toilet.”

After she talked about hoping for Democrats and Republicans to come together, she went on to add her hopes for the future of America.

“We need some young people in [office], not people my age. I don’t even know where I put my keys, we shouldn’t have these people running our country.”

Less than 20 yards to the right of the rally location were train tracks. As attendees disbanded, a train rolled by on the same tracks used by the derailed cars.

It was an immediate reminder of the disaster their town is still experiencing, and the crowd booed.

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