Flint residents hope President Obama’s visit draws attention to crisis

President Barack Obama drinks water as he speaks at Flint Northwestern High School in Flint, Mich., Wednesday, May 4, 2016, about the ongoing water crisis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

FLINT, Mich. (WOOD) — While Flint residents hope Wednesday’s visit by President Barack Obama will expedite help to the city dealing with drinking water contaminated by lead, many say the most important thing he brought was the spotlight.

Speaking at a Flint high school after meeting with various community members and government officials, Obama promised he would keep the pressure on “leaders at every level of government until every drop of water that flows into your homes is safe to drink and safe to cook with and safe to bathe in.” He also assured residents that drinking the water now was OK as long as it was filtered, even drinking some himself. He promised the scientists who told him that would lose their jobs if it wasn’t true.

In the crowd listening the president speak were three people whose faces have become symbolic of the water crisis: a little boy who was featured on the cover of Time magazine, the 8-year-old known as “Little Miss Flint” who wrote the letter that the president said prompted him to make the trip, and the doctor who sounded some of the first and loudest alarms about lead in children’s blood.

Sincere Smith, 2, captured the hearts of the masses with his photo on the cover of Time in January. A skin rash covered his body — the result of bathing in the corrosive water, his mother said. Since the photo was taken for Time, his condition has improved.

“I’m doing good,” he said Wednesday.

Still, his mother’s worries have not eased.

“Even though the president said we shouldn’t be worried, I’m still concerned. As a parent you’re going to be concerned whether somebody said it’s OK or they not saying it’s OK,” she said. “I’m still concerned for the sake of my kids.”

During his remarks, Obama said that the lead pipes that caused the contamination would be replaced, but reminded residents it wouldn’t be an overnight fix.

“I would like to see a little bit more action, but it’s a start,” Loui Brezzell said.

Her daughter, 8-year-old Mari Copeny, is known as Little Miss Flint. She wrote the president an email that he said was the reason he came to Flint.

“I thought her president should come to Flint to meet with her,” Obama said as he addressed the crowd.

Mari was glowing as the president spoke and excited afterward:

“I was kind of scared a little bit,” she said. “I never met the president before!”

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, credited withbringing public attention to the high level of lead in the blood of Flint kids, said it was “important to see him (the president) because people of Flint need to know that he cares,” she said.

“Working together, Flint’s future will be even brighter than our yesterday ever was,” she continued.


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