President Obama comforted the nation and gave solace to Newtown’s inconsolable families Sunday — and strongly hinted he would seek a legislative solution to the wave of mass shootings that has haunted America on his watch.
Saying he was tormented by the massacre of 27 victims in Connecticut and the paroxysm of mass slaughter that has brought him to console grieving communities four times during his presidency, Obama signaled that in the weeks ahead he will deploy “whatever power this office holds” to seek reform of gun laws.
“Can we say we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?” a somber Obama asked as audience members wept openly.
"My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her" writes Cristina Hassinger via her social networking page.
President Obama poses with family members of victim Emilie Parker.
Emilie Alice Parker was killed Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 children and adults at the school.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no,” he said. “We’re not doing enough, and we’ll have to change.”
He also made a heartbreaking personal connection with the infant granddaughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung, the martyred 47-year-old who died while lunging at the gunman in a heroic and doomed effort to overpower him.
A moving tweet from the daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in the massacre.
Cradling the adorable child in his arms, with his jaw set and his face a portrait of grief and resolve, the comforter-in-chief tried to lift the boundless pain of a picture-postcard New England village that overnight has become a gruesome national symbol of unspeakable evil.
“My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter,” tweeted Cristina Hassinger, the principal’s brave daughter.
“But not as proud as I am of her,” she added.
President Obama consoles Robert Parker, father of victim Emilie Parker.
All was hushed at Newtown High School as Obama took the stage barely 1 mile from the elementary school where 12 first-grade girls and eight first-grade boys — all of them only 6 or 7 years old — and six adult women were cut down.
“We have come to remember 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults,” Obama told the mourners at the interfaith service.
“We have come to a school that could have been any school — in a town that could have been any town in America . . .“Newtown — you are not alone,” Obama proclaimed.
His voice was even, but he was emotionally vested in the audience of more than 1,500, and at one point, he appeared to brush away a tear with his index finger.
“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” the President asked.
“No single law or set of laws can eliminate evil from the world,” the President proclaimed . . . . But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.”
While he never addressed specifics of any legislation he might propose, Obama said the nation must do more to address the carnage — and said the four mass killings in his first term are “four too many.”
Minutes before he spoke, Obama tried to cheer up the three adorable sisters of beautiful 6-year-old victim Emilie Parker — and even posed with the girls for pictures that quickly were posted on the commemorative Facebook page set up in Emilie’s honor.
And he embraced and tried to comfort Robbie Parker, Emilie’s devastated father.
President Obama pauses during his emotional speech.
The President also lavished praise on the heroism of the school’s teachers and the guts and swiftness of the town’s first responders:
“When danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school staff did not flinch, did not hestitate . . . ‘Wait for the good guys,’ the children were told — and the good guys came.”
And he said the kids themselves were selfless and heroic with one telling his teacher, “I know karate, and I will lead the way out!”
Obama’s emotion-packed words came after bone-chilling evidence surfaced that 20-year-old Adam Lanza’s unthinkable bloodletting could well have been much worse.
Outfitted with an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of deadly ammunition, he was equipped with enough firepower to kill almost every student in the school if he had enough time, law enforcement officials said.
He fired in high-velocity bursts from a military-style assault rifle packed with lethal ammunition designed to fragment within a victim’s body, piercing organs, severing arteries, shredding tissue and bones, and inflicting the maximum amount of damage possible.
Raising the specter that the blood-curdling massacre could have been more horrific than the one Lanza actually executed, officials said hundreds of unused bullets and multiple unspent 30-round magazines were found near his body.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Lanza killed himself with a single shot to the head as SWAT team cops closed in about 10 to 12 minutes into the blood bath.
Malloy confirmed that authorities believe Lanza was alive when police arrived at the school on Friday and only ended his killing spree by shooting himself when he knew the cops were closing in.
“There was a lot more ammo, a lot more clips,” said State Police Lt. Paul Vance. “A lot of lives were potentially saved.”
Local medical examiners also disclosed that Lanza shot his 52-year-old, weapon-loving mother Nancy Lanza four times in the head with a .223-caliber rifle in the home they shared on Friday, before attacking the school. Her pajama-clad body was found facedown in bed.
Meanwhile, a backlash was building against the National Rifle Association with word that the magazines that force- fed bullets into one of the guns Lanza used to cut down the children would have been banned under state legislation the NRA and gunmakers successfully fought last year.
His main weapon was a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, Vance said at a Sunday news conference.
A proposal in 2011 would have made it a felony to possess magazines with more than 10 bullets and required owners to surrender them to law enforcement or remove them from the state. Opponents sent more than 30,000 emails and letters to state lawmakers in a campaign organized by the NRA, said Robert Crook, head of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, which opposed the legislation.
“The legislators got swamped by NRA emails,” said Betty Gallo, who lobbied on behalf of the legislation for Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
At the same time, the NRA, slammed for its strident pro-gun advocacy, backed away from a milestone boast it had made just the day before — that it’s chalked up 1.7 million “likes” on Facebook.
The page the NRA used to tout that tally has now vanished.
President Obama arrives at the start of an interfaith vigil.
In the aftermath of the calamity, families sought to comfort each other during tear-filled church services and painful vigils.
Adorable 6-year-old Jennifer Waters asked her mother a simple and achingly beautiful question that spoke to a nation’s boundless grief as she sat on a pew during Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church:
“All those little children, are they with the angels now?” she wanted to know as she played with a tiny plastic Sonic the Hedgehog figurine. “Are they going to live with the angels now?”
Jennifer is the same age as so many of the victims, and her 45-year-old mother Joan quickly assured her daughter that yes, also those helpless slaughtered victims were indeed bound for a hallowed place.
As children grappled with the unfathomable dimensions of what had happened, shock descended on the workers whose impossible task was to restore order amid the mayhem.
“This is a week from hell,” said funeral director Daniel Honan, whose Honan Funeral Hom
Security forces swarm St. Rose Church of Lima in Newtown, Conn. after a phone threat scare.
Some caskets will be closed, he said, but some will be open, he said. "It brings the reality of the situation to light and helps bring closure.”
Death threats interrupted the church service that was supposed to begin the healing — and led to the forced and frightening evacuation of the church in the middle of the noon Mass.