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Trump sees 'a lot of happiness' among Houston families forced from their homes by flooding

President Trump visits people impacted by Hurricane Harvey during a visit to the NRG Center in Houston on Sept. 2, 2017. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
President Trump visits people impacted by Hurricane Harvey during a visit to the NRG Center in Houston on Sept. 2, 2017. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

President Trump toured part of a cavernous Houston convention center on Saturday that has provided refuge to thousands of families displaced by flooding since Hurricane Harvey roared into the city a week ago.

Trump said he saw happiness among the people crowded into the NRG Center. Many have lost their homes, cars and possessions in the epic flooding. 

“We saw a lot of happiness,” Trump told reporters traveling with him. “It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it, for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”

Asked what people had said to him, Trump replied, “They’re really happy with what’s going on. It’s been something that’s been very well-received. Even by you guys [the media], it’s been well-received.”

The president and First Lady Melania Trump spent almost 45 minutes at the NRG Center, stopping frequently for hugs, handshakes and selfies. 

Their first stop was the “kid zone,” where children bounced balls, played board games, did puzzles and colored with crayons.

Trump stopped to talk to three young boys, one with a plastic sword. One ran away, looking pleased but shy, after he got a presidential hug. Trump also briefly hoisted a little girl with tightly braided hair and gave her a quick embrace.

Some of the adults did not sound particularly happy. 

Devon Harris, 37, a construction worker, was skeptical about the impact of a presidential visit.

“Is he going to help? Can he help? I lost my home. My job is gone. My tools are gone. My car is gone. My life is gone. What is Trump going to do?”

Later, the Trumps put on plastic gloves and helped hand out lunch boxes — hot dogs, potato chips and applesauce.  

Robert Hendricks, 48, an electrical engineer standing on line, was dubious. “What’s he going to do, use us as props to serve us lunch?” Still he said, “It’s good that he's showing his face.”

But Kevin Jason Hipolito, 37, who was rescued from the roof of his flooded Acura and has been at the shelter for two days, said he was pleased Trump showed up. 

“I’m a Democrat,” he said. “It raises the morale. When he went to Corpus [Christi on Tuesday], I was like, ‘Man, he just forgot about us.’ This shows a lot of support. It perks up morale.”

The Trumps later stopped at First Church in Pearland, a large suburban church doubling as a relief center. The president handed out plastic buckets and cardboard boxes of supplies to motorists who formed a queue to pick them up.

Addressing hundreds of volunteers in the church auditorium, Trump congratulated Texans on their storm-recovery efforts and noted long-term recovery could take two to three years.

“They say two years, three years. I think because this is Texas, you’ll probably do it in six months, I have a feeling,” he enthused to cheers from the crowd. 

The hall was filled with tables piled high with supplies, and volunteers filled packages with food, diapers, sunscreen, bleach and other supplies. 

 Many in the room applauded Trump's visit. 

"It's amazing. It really highlights all the good efforts that so many people are making. I'm glad to see him," said Shanna Norris, 37, a consultant who attends the church. "It just really showcases the efforts of the United States and the community." 

She doesn't think much of criticism Trump received for visit to Corpus Christi and Austin on Tuesday, when he met only state officials, not storm victims. "It's such a wide area. There's just a lot of devastation." 

Kenny Mercado, senior VP at CenterPoint Energy, an electricity provider, said Trump's visit "brings spirit, brings hope. This is a city that got a long long long journey ahead. There's still a lot of work to be done." 

After Trump's remarks on stage, he and Mrs. Trump went outside, where a line of cars was waiting to collect supplies. They loaded about a half-dozen cars and trucks. 

 "Hey can you handle this?" Trump said to the first recipient, a man in a pickup truck as the president handed him a plastic American Red Cross bucket. 

 "There's a lot of stuff in here," Trump said. "You're all set," he said after loading a few boxes in the flatbed and slapping the truck a couple of times.

  "It's good exercise," Trump said as the man drove off.

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