(WASHINGTON) — Wiping away tears for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, President Obama came to the White House briefing room Friday afternoon to mourn the victims of this morning’s carnage.
“The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the president said, pausing to collect himself as tears began to stream from his eyes. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
The president noted that “among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. So our hearts are broken today — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.”
The president’s public reaction was not only more emotional than after any previous shooting during his presidency — many of which he recited in a grim list — but more political. While the president has avoided any serious discussions of gun control, on Friday he hinted about the subject.
“As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago,” the president said. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children, and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
The president noted that he spoke with Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, offering his condolences and any needed resource, and FBI director Robert Mueller.
But the president, who was first informed of the shooting at around 10:30 am Friday morning by homeland security adviser John Brennan, said he reacted to the news “not as a president but, as anybody would, as a parent.”
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” he said.
The father of Sasha, 11, and Malia, 14, said that Friday night he and First Lady Michelle Obama would “do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now.”
Whether President George W. Bush after 9/11, President Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing, or President Ronald Reagan after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, commanders in chief are sometimes called to be consolers-in-chief at moments like this.
“In the hard days to come,” the president noted, the Newtown “community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or a loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours. May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ashley Strickland, CNN
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Holly Yan and Steve Forrest, CNN
Steve Almasy, Ralph Ellis and Nick Valencia, CNN