Obama: ‘You are not alone in your grief’

Pres­i­dent of­fers com­fort, hope to shat­tered town.

Austin American-Statesman - - CONNECTICUT SCHOOL SHOOTING - By Ben Feller and­jim Kuhnhenn Ass­co­ci­ated Press OLIVIER DOULIERY / ABACA PRESS, MCT

NEW­TOWN, CONN. — He spoke for a na­tion in sor­row, but the slaugh­ter of all those lit­tle boys and girls left Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, like so many oth­ers, reach­ing for words. Alone on a spare stage af­ter the worst sin­gle day of his pres­i­dency, the com­man­der in chief was a par­ent in grief.

“I am very mind­ful that mere words can­not match the depth of your sor­row, nor can they heal your wounded hearts,” Obama said at an evening vigil in the griev­ing com­mu­nity of New­town, Conn. “I can only hope that it helps for you to know that you are not alone in your grief.”

The mas­sacre of 26 chil­dren and adults at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary on Fri­day elicited hor­ror around the world, soulsearch­ing in the United States, fresh po­lit­i­cal de­bate about gun con­trol and ques­tions about the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble — what drove the sus­pect to act.

It also left a newly re­elected pres­i­dent openly grap­pling for big­ger an­swers. Obama said that in the coming weeks, he would use “what­ever power this of­fice holds” to en­gage with law en­force­ment, men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, par­ents and educators in an ef­fort to pre­vent more tragedies like New­town.

“Can say that we’re truly do­ing enough to give all the chil­dren of this coun­try the chance they de­serve to live out their lives in hap­pi­ness and with pur­pose? I’ve been re­flect­ing on this the last few days,” Obama said, somber and steady as some in the au­di­ence wept.

“If we’re hon­est with­out our­selves, the an­swer is no. And we will have to change.”

He promised to lead a na­tional ef­fort, but left un­clear was what it would be, and how much it would ad­dress the ex­plo­sive is­sue of gun con­trol.

“What choice do we have?” Obama said. “Are we really pre­pared to say that we’re pow­er­less in the face of such car­nage, that the pol­i­tics are too hard?”

As Obama read some of the names of vic­tims early in his re­marks, sev­eral peo­ple broke down, their sobs heard through­out the hall.

He closed his re­marks by slowly read­ing the first names of each of the 26 vic­tims.

“God has called them all home. For those of us who re­main, let us find the strength to carry on and make our coun­try wor­thy of their me­mory,” he said.

All the vic­tims were killed up close by mul­ti­ple ri­fle shots.

In­side the vigil chil­dren held stuffed teddy bears and dogs. The small­est kids sat on their par­ents’ laps.

There were tears and hugs, but also smiles and squeezed arms. Mixed with dis­be­lief was a sense of a com­mu­nity reac­quaint­ing it­self all at once. One man said it was less mourn­ful, more fa­mil­ial. Some kids chat­ted eas­ily with their friends. The adults em­braced each other in sup­port.

The pres­i­dent first met pri­vately with fam­i­lies of the vic­tims and with the emer­gency per­son­nel who re­sponded to the shoot­ings. That meet­ing hap­pened at New­town High School, the site of Sun­day night’s in­ter­faith vigil, about a mile and a half from where the shoot­ings took place.

“We’re half­way be­tween grief and hope,” said Curt Brantl, whose fourth-grade daugh­ter was in the li­brary of the ele­men­tary school when the shoot­ings oc­curred. She was not harmed.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama speaks at a vigil in New­town, Conn. on Sun­day for the vic­tims of the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary school shoot­ing.

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