WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — The day started out full steam ahead for the arrival of President Joe Biden at the Marts Center on the campus of Wilkes University. Then came word that the president had tested positive for COVID, bringing all plans to a screeching halt.
"I received a call on my cell phone from President Biden, and he said, 'Mayor, I am really sorry things didn't work out. I was really looking forward to being in your city today,'" said Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown.
The president was supposed to spend part of the day discussing gun violence and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
"We were amazingly honored that they chose to come here for this important policy speech, and we were thrilled that our community came together very quickly, and we were excited to have the president on campus, but when the president gets sick, the first response is we wish him well," said Wilkes University President Greg Cant.
A few days of prep work went into the visit, all for it to get torn down.
"Making sure the streets are clean, the avenue to get here was clean and safe, and the potholes were fixed," said David Lewis, Wilkes-Barre public works supervisor.
Avery Hamill from Students Demand Action was invited to the speech. Members of the group made the trip from Philadelphia to be here in Wilkes-Barre.
"We as students want to feel safe in our school, and we were very proud of the actions of the president to pass this act, this historic legislation to protect," said Hamill.
Making use of the suddenly free afternoon, the mayors of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton got everyone together to talk about the issue President Biden was set to address —gun violence.
"Even if the president can't make it, we are working together to find solutions, whether it is investing in community-led strategies or helping to decrease access to illegal firearms that are driving this violence," said Adam Garber, CeaseFirePA.
"I'm sending love and support to him and his family for a speedy and safe recovery and empathizing that COVID isn't something that is gone yet. We need to continue to be safe and protect ourselves and protect others," Hamill added.
Mayor Brown tells us there are plans to reschedule this presidential visit for a later date.
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