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President Obama Joins Newtown In Memorializing A School’s Students And Staff

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
December 16, 2012

President Obama arrived this afternoon in Newtown, Conn., to meet with the families of students and teacher who died in Friday’s attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School. While those meetings are being kept private, the president will also speak at a memorial service for the 20 children and 6 adults killed at the school.

We’ll update this post with news from the event, and highlights of the president’s speech. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy is also scheduled to speak. On his Twitter feed this afternoon, Malloy urged residents to reach out for help: “If you or a child need assistance or counseling,” he said, “dial 2-1-1 from anywhere in CT to reach a trained specialist.”

Update at 8:39 p.m. ET. President Obama speaks:

“We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children, and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school, in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America. Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation.”

Update at 8:41 p.m. ET. The president, continued:

“I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world too has been torn apart — that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We have pulled our children tight. You must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you, to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear. Newtown, you are not alone.”

Update at 8:43 p.m. ET: President’s remarks:

The president says that the nation was inspired by the town, and the reactions of the staff of Sandy Hook Elementary.

“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.

“We know there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying, ‘Wait for the good guys — they’re coming. Show me your smile.’

“And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock, and their own trauma, because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.”

Update at 8:46 p.m. ET: President’s remarks:

Of the children, the president said they helped one another, “dutifully following instructions in the way that children sometimes do.

“One child even tried to encourage a grownup by saying, ‘I know karate. So it’s OK — I’ll lead the way out.’

“As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.”

Our earlier updates from the event continue:

Update at 8:36 p.m. ET Gov. Dannell Malloy:

Malloy says the president told him “that the most difficult day of his presidency was Friday, when he heard the news of that which had befallen this community.”

Update at 8:31 p.m. ET. First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra:

“I know that Newtown will prevail, that we will not fall to acts of violence. It is a defining moment for our town, but it will not define it.”

Update at 8:28 p.m. ET. Words of comfort:

Dr. John Woodall, leader of Baha’i Faith Community and Rev. Leo McIlrath, chaplain at the Lutheran Home of Southbury offer encouragement and prayers for counselors and caregivers.

Here we must apologize for omitting the names of a woman who addressed the crowd. Not all of the speakers in the service have been identified in the program provided to the media.

Update at 8:22 p.m. ET. Prayer for the first responders:

Rev. Jane Sibley of Newtown United Methodist Church offers a prayer to comfort the police, fire and rescue workers who were the first on the scene.

“We will be faithful to them, we will care for them,” she says. “We will continue to equip them. And we will keep them ever in our prayers.”

Update at 8:16 p.m. ET. Reciting the Koran, praying for families:

Jason Graves and Muadh Bhavnagarwala of the Al Hedaya Islamic Center in Newtown arrive on stage. We apologize for not knowing which is which (they have not been identified separately). It seems to be the younger, Muadh Bhavnagarwala, who chants a prayer.

Graves then offers a prayer in which he says, “We ask God to grant those lost a special place in paradise. And we ask that their families to be granted the strength the endure the unendurable.”

Update at 8:10 p.m. ET. Rev. Jim Solomon:

Rev. Jim Solomon of New Hope Community Church leads a prayer for the children of Newtown — both those that were lost and those that remain. “Life will never be the same for them,” he says.

Update at 8:06 p.m. ET. Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd:

Adams-Shepherd, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, leads the crowd in reciting Psalm 23.

Update at 8:03 p.m. ET. Rev. Mel Kawakami:

Rev. Mel Kawakami leads a prayer, saying “We know those who are lost, because they’re ours, Lord — not names on some list, but our mothers, our sisters, our brothers, our friends. Kindred all — because if we did not know them ourselves, we know someone who did.”

After his prayer, the crowd observes a moment of silence.

Update at 7:56 p.m. ET. Rabbi Shaul Praver:

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel in Newtown offers what he calls the Hebrew Memorial Prayer, singing while he is flanked by Rev. Mel Kawakami of Newtown United Methodist Church, who will speak next.

Update at 7:53 p.m. ET.

Rev. Matthew Crebbin explains why clergy (and the president) are sitting among the crowd, not gathered on the stage, where a podium with the presidential seal sits nearly alone:

“We wanted to have a symbolic gesture — that we ourselves are with you, and among you in the coming days. That we are all in this together.”

Update at 7:49 p.m. ET. Interfaith prayer vigil begins:

After listening to a pianist playing “gathering music” for some minutes, the capacity crowd in the Newtown High School auditorium stands to applaud President Obama, who enters and sits near the center of the front row.

The crowd is greeted by Rev. Matthew Crebbin, minister of the Newtown Congregational Church, who says, “We needed this. We needed to be together.”

Our original post continues:

Media access of Sunday evening’s memorial service is being limited to pool coverage. Reporting for the pool, Ann Compton of ABC described the scene inside the Newtown High School auditorium by saying it was cavernous, with wooden seats and a broad stage framed with blue curtains.

The stage was set with a podium bearing the presidential seal, along with the U.S. and Connecticut flags, “and what appears to be a low table set with clear glass votive candles,” Compton wrote. She continued:

“The hall is filling with families, many with elementary age children and many of them are clutching stuffed toys and animals. Adults chat in clusters adding to the general buzz in the room.

“Sen. Joe Lieberman is talking to some near the front.

“I am surrounded by kids. And some very weepy Dads.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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