There have been many dramatic and emotional moments at the White House — but few have been as wrenching as this.
President Obama fought to keep his composure and repeatedly wiped away tears as he addressed the nation about the horror inside a Connecticut grade school.
“Our hearts are broken today,” he said.
He spoke not just as a President, but as a father.
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” Obama said. “The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.”
When he summoned the strength to speak again, he lamented the bright futures that had been abruptly lost.
“They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” he said.
And then he stopped again. And wiped an eye.
The emotional, four-minute address showcased a side of Obama the public has rarely seen. Even some cable TV commentators who are never at a loss for words seemed stunned.
In the days before his November 2008 election, Obama cried while remembering his late grandmother, but his public persona is that of a cool, even detached, leader.
The sudden outpouring recalled another dark hour in the nation’s history — President George W. Bush’s heartbreak in the frantic first days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Before his address, Obama signed an order directing that flags at federal buildings across the nation and the world be flown at half-staff as tribute to those lost.
Obama spoke about the rampage from a room named after the victim of another high-profile shooting — the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Brady was the press secretary who was shot and paralyzed in the 1981 assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan.
The President promised unspecified “meaningful action” in the weeks ahead to prevent yet more shooting tragedies.
But, most immediately, he said he would do what “every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them.”
The President, the father of two daughters, wiped away another tear, and then added, “But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now.”