President Barack Obama visited with Fayette Avenue residents Sunday afternoon as part of his tour of flood-ravaged North Jersey.
Making a brief and unexpected visit to Wayne on his way to Paterson, Obama shook hands with residents and posed for pictures with them.
“Just want to let you know we’re going to be here,” Obama told one resident.
Many flood-weary residents were elated that the president made the trip, a week after Hurricane Irene devastated parts of the township.
“I am very happy,” Francisco Alarco said. “When I heard he was coming to Paterson I was hoping he'd come here and it happened.''
Mayor Chris Vergano, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-08) and Governor Chris Christie accompanied Obama on his visit.
One resident who spoke with Patch said that she was “shocked” to see the president on her street.
“He asked how we were doing. He wanted to know if we were okay,” the resident said. “He was nice and down to earth. He wanted to know how high the water came up in our house.”
Local officials said they were pleased that Obama took the time to observe the damage for himself.
“We are very appreciative for the time President Obama was able to spend in Wayne interacting with the residents of Fayette Avenue,” Vergano said. “The president wanted to see first hand what residents of Wayne have experienced from the effects of hurricane Irene.”
Residents from surrounding municipalities lined Mountainview Boulevard hoping to catch a glimpse of the president.
“I’m happy he’s here,” Wayne resident Terri Nikouits said. “Tragedy really brings people together.”
Flood victims said just knowing the president was the area boosted their morale.
“Just seeing the president here in the area means a lot,” said Eric Martin, a Little Falls resident whose house was flooded by Hurricane Irene. “For him to make the commitment to show up shows that he cares about goes on here.”
Obama landed in Newark International Airport at about noon and then flew to Caldwell Airport and finally was driven through Paterson to assess the damage there. He viewed the still-closed Main Street bridge over the Passaic River.
"The main message that I have for all the residents not only of New Jersey, but all those communities that have been affected by flooding, by the destruction that occurred as a consequence of Hurricane Irene is that the entire country is behind you and we are going to make sure that we provide all the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild," Obama said in remarks released to the press Sunday afternoon.
Obama praised the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and state responders and officials.
“We know it could have been worse, but we should not underestimate the heartache,” Obama said in Paterson.
The president’s last stop was to a nearby Lowe’s store where he shook hands with volunteers providing supplies and food through a Road to Recovery center.
Imani Ross, 13, and Bria Johnson and Tyshira Evans, both 14, waiting excitedly as Obama and other officials worked their way up the table line.
“It shows he really cares,” Johnson said.
Note: This story includes information from official pool reports distributed by the White House.