Obama consoles grieving families of Connecticut school victims
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Obama travelled yesterday to Connecticut's Newtown, a town in mourning after Adam Lanza gunned down 26 people, including 20 first-graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School before committing suicide last week.
The police said Lanza, 20, used a long rifle and shot the 6-7 year olds multiple times in the carnage that shocked the world and left the America searching for answers.
Obama attended an emotional inter-faith memorial service held at the Newtown High School, telling a packed auditorium that the town was not alone in its grief.
He said he offers the love and prayers of the nation but added that the country is failing at its "first task" to keep its children safe. "It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right," he said.
"Can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm?
"If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no," he said. "We are not doing enough, and we will have to change."
Obama said he realises that mere words of condolences are not enough to heal the "wounded hearts" of the parents and friends of those killed in the carnage, which has left the nation "with hard questions."
The shooting is the fourth incident during Obama's term as President and the President said, "we cannot accept events like these" as a routine. "This is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings. We cannot tolerate this. These tragedies must end and to end them we we must change," he said.
The memorial service included recitations by inter-faith leaders and prayers for the victims and the first responders.
A young Muslim boy also read verses from the Quran. Obama, sitting in the first row of the auditorium, flanked by city officials and the town's residents, listened to the prayers and sermons intently and somberly.
As the tragedy reopens the debate on the country's gun laws, Obama said, "no single law or set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our societies. That cannot be an excuse for inaction, surely we can do better than this."
"We cannot accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say we are powerless in the face of such carnage? that the politics are too hard?
"In the coming weeks I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens," he said, adding
"in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like his. Because what choice do we have?"
Before participating in the memorial service, Obama met separately with the families of the victims.
During the service, the President read out the names of the young children who were killed in the massacre.
He also read the names of the six Sandy Hook staff members, including the school's principal and teachers, who he said showed courage and did not hesitate to put themselves in the line of fire to protect the children.
"They responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care," he said.
Obama recalled the recent shooting incidents of a theatre in Colorado and the gurudwara in Wisconsin saying that "if there's even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that's visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try."
"We bear a responsibility for every child... This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. Surely we can do better than this."
The inter-faith vigil was one of the many memorial services that were planned across Newtown to mourn and condole the tragic deaths. People lit candles and left flowers, teddy bears and angel figurines on the various memorials that were set up across the town in memory of the victims. A day after the carnage, more details emerged of the shooting and the way Lanza carried out the attack.
Connecticut police said he had shot his mother Nancy Lanza multiple times in the head before he drove to the elementary school armed with semiautomatic pistols, an assault rifle and a large supply of ammunition.
Connecticut State Police spokesman Paul Vance said most of the shots were fired from the .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle. Lanza had fired several rounds of shots still had hundreds of rounds left when he killed himself.
Obama said in between the incidents of mass shootings, there have been "an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose – much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Obama said the nation draws inspiration from people of Newtown who have "in the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, looked out for each other. You've cared for one another. And you've loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered."