President Obama addressed the nation in an emotionally charged speech Friday, wiping away tears as he expressed sympathy for the families of the victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
President Barack Obama reacted to news of the horrific elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Friday like many other Americans: As a parent first.
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” the president said in a tearful midday speech.
Obama was among many public figures who were left feeling overwhelming grief – and parental empathy - for the families who were victims of the massacre that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“The majority of those who died today were children – beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the visibly emotional president said. “They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Obama went on to say that the nation had gone through too many mass shootings too many times.
“This evening Michelle and I will 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,” he said.
The heartbreaking mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School was met with disbelief and tears from people across the country. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy reacted with sadness. "Evil visited this community today. And it's too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut - we're all in this together. We'll do whatever we can to overcome this event. We will get through it. But this is a terrible time for this community and these families."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the shooting hit him as a parent and a politician.
“I am in shock and disbelief at this horrible tragedy that took so many innocent lives today. As a father and grandfather, it is beyond my comprehension why anyone would want to hurt innocent children. I join the millions of Americans whose thoughts and hearts are with those suffering because of this horrible crime in Connecticut,” he said in a statement.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the department's hearts and prayers were with the school's students and staff and surrounding community. He, too, reacted as a parent.
"School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies. But words fail to describe today's heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the father of two children in elementary school, I can barely imagine the anguish and losses suffered today by the Newtown community," he said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut also said that he and his wife were heartbroken for the nation, and as parents.
"Hadassah and I are shocked and heartbroken by the horrific events in Newtown today. We know this community and its people well. It is a beautiful town with wonderful people. As parents and grandparents, our hearts grieve for them today, and we send our prayers to each of them,” Lieberman said in a statement.
House Speaker John Boehner appealed to Americans to come together, and to seek solace in religion.
"The horror of this day seems so unbearable, but we will lock arms and unite as citizens, for that is how Americans rise above unspeakable evil. Let us all come together in God's grace to pray for the families of the victims, that they may find some comfort and peace amid such suffering,” Boehner said in a statement.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell offered the hope that such violence could be eradicated.
"We are all crushed by the news of today's horrifying massacre in Newtown. I invite everyone to lift their hearts in prayer for the victims and their families and to unite around the hope that there will soon come a day when parents no longer fear this kind of violence in our nation again,” McConnell said.
The outpouring of sympathy also came from overseas.
Students described hearing shots and screams over the intercom at school, which is how they first knew something was wrong. The survivors lived because of the bravery of their teachers. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.
England's Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to Obama reading: "I have been deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the dreadful loss of life today in Newtown, Connecticut; particularly the news that so many of the dead are children. Prince Philip joins me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to you and the American people at this difficult time. The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth are with the families and friends of those killed and with all those who have been affected by today's events."
Pope Benedict XVI's spokesperson, Cardinal Tarcisio Berton, wrote in a statement: "The Holy Father was promptly informed of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and he has asked me to convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of this closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all affected by the shocking event. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy he asks God, our Father, to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love."
Some public figures also called on the nation to re-evaluate gun laws.
Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely injured in a shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, said he and his wife were sending their prayers to the victims.
"As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right. This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws - and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait,” Kelly’s statement on Facebook read in part.
There have been several mass shootings in 2012 alone, and on Friday President Obama said politicians will need to come together to take action regardless of the politics. NBC's Tom Costello reports.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his deepest sympathies were with the families of the shooting, and he called on national figures to do more than send their thoughts and prayers.
"With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were 5-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem,” Bloomberg’s statement said in part.
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