Joe Biden’s conspicuous failure to visit East Palestine, Ohio, after the catastrophic train derailment that hammered the community has stirred a mix of disappointment and skepticism among the town’s residents and the American public. Even though Biden promised to visit the disaster site soon after the accident, nearly 11 months have elapsed as Biden has apparently had other priorities, including his multiple vacations.
The derailment saw a Norfolk Southern train spill millions of pounds of toxic chemicals, profoundly affecting the small community of 4,700 people and the surrounding region.
Unlike Biden’s decision to be a persistent “no-show,” President Donald Trump traveled to East Palestine just three weeks after the derailment, delivering essential supplies and expressing solidarity with the townspeople.
No-Show Joe: East Palestine Residents Still Waiting for a Biden Visit https://t.co/6jxnz3Jjpf
— Wendy Kortepeter (@WKortepeter) December 29, 2023
Local residents like Jessica Conard and Krissy Ferguson have expressed their disillusionment openly. Conard, dismayed by Biden’s decision to bypass East Palestine for other engagements, felt neglected, saying, “I feel like I don’t matter.” This sentiment is echoed by Ferguson, who resides within a mile of the derailment site, “I believe that if we were in a blue area, he would have come, and that hurts.”
The White House maintains that Biden’s visit will happen when it is most beneficial for the community. Jeremy M. Edwards, a White House spokesman, emphasized the ongoing robust recovery efforts. However, these assurances have done little to quell the disappointment among the residents. Biden’s approach has led to a perception that he is more aligned with Washington elites than with the working-class citizens he once vowed to represent.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s visit to the site, albeit delayed, was a step toward addressing the residents’ frustrations over the response to the disaster. However, this gesture was overshadowed by Biden’s continued absence and the lack of a disaster declaration from the federal government, which would unlock additional resources for the community.
The Norfolk Southern derailment has evolved into a political flashpoint, with conservative commentators highlighting the crisis to underscore a perceived lack of concern from the Biden administration. The administration’s defense, citing the deployment of EPA and FEMA resources, has done little to dispel the community’s feeling of being overlooked.
While Norfolk Southern has committed to cleaning up the damage, residents yearn for a more substantial commitment from their government. They seek assurances for long-term health screenings, indoor air monitoring, and treatment for potential chemical exposures.
East Palestine continues to struggle with the aftermath of the derailment nearly a year later. Health concerns persist, and the environmental impact remains uncertain. The residents could use more than just Joe Biden’s physical presence, although even that small act could stand as a sign of recognition and support for the innocent victims of the environmental disaster.