CHRISTINA HEIN NEVER EXPECTED TO meet Bill Clinton, much less end up in his arms crying. But on July 14, as Clinton toured the flood-torn Midwest, the 24-year-old Des Moines computer operator found herself face-to-face with the President. "He gave me a serious look when I walked up. The eye contact made me burst into tears," she says. "He looked into my eyes and I said, 'Mr. President, we need help.' "

As she told him how her parents—Connie and Leroy Bale—had to evacuate their two-bedroom ranch home, Clinton teared up as well. Then he held her light. "I'm sorry, very sorry," whispered the President. "Hang in there."

Ironically, Hein voted for George Bush last year. But she has changed her opinion about the man who comforted her—and about the raging flood waters that prompted his visit. "I never really paid attention to the river, though Id drive by it every day," says Hein. "Now I stop to look and hope that it doesn't flood again."