President Barack Obama said he came with “the love and prayers of a nation” as he spoke Sunday night here at the vigil for those killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, but said the nation faces “hard questions” in the aftermath.
“Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?” Obama said. “If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough, and we will have to change.”
Obama said that though there is no single law or set of laws that could prevent such tragedies, “that can’t be an excuse for inaction,” dismissing people who say the “politics are too hard. Are we prepared that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
Obama concluded his remarks by reciting the first names of every victim, to an eruption of tears in the room.
“For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in his heavenly place.”
Families streamed into the auditorium of Newtown High School, just a mile and a half from the site of the massacre. Adults – many wearing ribbons in the green and white school colors pinned to their lapels — greeted each other with hugs. Many children clutched floppy-eared brown plush dogs that the local Red Cross was distributing outside.
First responders were cheered and applauded as they entered the auditorium as the vigil began.
They listened to the president’s speech at the end of the memorial service commemorating the 26 people — including 20 children — killed Friday. Before the vigil, Obama met with victims’ families and first responders, as well as Connecticut Malloy and the state’s congressional delegation.
Obama wrote the speech working with speechwriter Cody Keenan, who also assisted with Obama’s post-Tucson shooting speech and went to high school in Connecticut.
This was the second time this year and fourth since taking office that Obama arrived to help lead the mourning over the victims of a mass shooting. In July, it was 12 dead and 58 injured at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
Just under two years ago, it was six killed and 13 — including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) — injured outside a Tucson supermarket. Before that, it was Fort Hood, Texas, where a U.S. Army major killed 13 people and wounded 29 in November 2009.
On Friday, Obama got choked up as he wiped away tears from his red eyes. “As a country, we have been through this too many times,” he said at the White House. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
Click here to watch the president's speech.