WASHINGTON (CNN) — Wiping away tears and choking up, President Barack Obama mourned the “beautiful little kids” slain Friday in a shooting massacre at a Connecticut school and called for preventing similar tragedies “regardless of the politics.”
It was a rare emotional display by Obama, known more for stoicism in such situations, and he referred to other recent U.S. mass shootings in calling for a national response.
“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” Obama said in a brief statement to reporters at the White House about the attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that killed at least 26 people, including 20 schoolchildren.
“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 (Colorado) or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children,” said Obama, who has been criticized for being soft on gun control issues by some on the political left.
“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” the president said.
A spokesman for the the National Rifle Association, which leads the nation’s powerful gun lobby, said the group had no comment “until the facts are thoroughly known.”
Obama’s statement focused mostly on the personal horror and grief that he and the nation felt at the news of another mass shooting in America, this time targeting young victims.
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” said Obama, the father of two girls. Brushing aside tears with his left hand, he had to pause before he continued.
“The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the president said. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Again wiping at his eyes, Obama also noted that teachers were slain as well — “men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.”
“So our hearts are broken today” for both the families who lost loved ones as well as those whose children survived but had their innocence “torn away from them too early,” the president said, adding that “there are no words that will ease their pain.”
In an especially personal reference, Obama said on Friday night, he and the first lady “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.”
“But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight,” he said, asking the nation to join him in providing as much help as possible to such a wounded community.
“Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or 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,” Obama concluded. “May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”
He then walked quickly out of the White House briefing room.