Obama visits victims 'as a father and as a husband'
Published Sunday, July 22, 2012 6:47AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 22, 2012 11:01PM EDT
U.S. President Barack Obama visited with victims of the deadly Colorado theatre shooting on Sunday as residents gathered for a memorial, promising them that “out of this darkness, a brighter day is going to come.”
“Even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong, and people bounce back and people are resilient,” said Obama.
Speaking from the University of Colorado Hospital, Obama told reporters that he came to the victims “not so much as President,” but rather as “a father and as a husband.”
A public memorial was also held in Aurora, where Mayor Steve Hogan, Governor John Hickenlooper and others spoke about the tragedy. It was decided that the president would not attend the public memorial, as he felt his presence would take attention away from the victims.
The president said that he came to Aurora to tell the families of the victims and those wounded that he and all Americans are with them in thought and prayer.
“We are thinking about them at this moment and we will continue to think about them each and every day,” he said.
Obama said he also assured the families that although the perpetrator of the shooting has received a lot of attention, that will eventually fade away.
“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” he said.
Obama was visiting the town of Aurora to meet with local officials and console grieving families in the wake of a deadly shooting in which 12 people died and 58 were injured.
Obama arrived aboard Air Force One at the nearby Buckley Air Force Base late Sunday afternoon for a visit that lasted just over two hours.
Obama first went to visit the families of victims being treated at the University of Colorado Hospital. Twenty-three people were treated at the hospital, and 10 remain at the facility. Seven people are still in critical condition.
Meanwhile, during the public memorial at the Aurora Municipal Center, Hickenlooper told the victims’ families that, “We are more sorry than words can express.”
During his address, the governor urged those gathered to focus on the lives of the victims and not the killer.
“July 20 should never be about remembering this event or the killer. It should be about remembering those individuals, remembering those victims,” he said.
He then read out each deceased’s victim’s name and asked attendees to say, “We will remember” after each one.
Hickenlooper also rallied the spirits of the gathered crowd of mourners, urging them to move forward with positivity.
“We refuse to even allow our state, our communities, be defined by irrational, senseless violence,” he said.
A gospel choir opened the memorial with a selection of hymns before various civic and state officials paid tribute to the victims.
A priest, a minister and a rabbi also offered prayers.
Obama, Romney suspend campaigns
While campaigning is expected to resume on Monday, the shooting put a pause on the presidential campaigns of both Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.
Both paused their respective campaigns upon learning of Friday’s mass shooting. Campaign ads were pulled off of television, political visits were cut short and interviews were cancelled.
“This weekend I hope everyone takes some time for prayer and reflection,” Obama said in a statement alongside his most recent weekly radio and Internet address.
Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign, said ads will be kept off Colorado airwaves for the rest of the week.
Hogan told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the president’s visit to the town “is a wonderful gesture.
"He's coming in, really, to have private conversations with the families. I think that's totally appropriate."
Also reaching out to the victims of Friday’s shooting was Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who phoned those in hospital to lift their spirits.
A spokesperson for the Medical Center of Aurora said Manning spoke to several patients who were brought to the facility following the shooting.
Obama’s visit came a day after explosives experts neutralized a number of improvised booby traps and explosives in the apartment of shooting suspect James Holmes, a 24-year-old man who was arrested outside the multiplex after Friday’s massacre.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday afternoon, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said that Holmes’ apartment was rigged to kill “whoever entered it.”
Though Aurora police say all hazardous material in Holmes’ apartment has been transported to a disposal site, residents in the building remain under an evacuation order.
Investigators are gradually piecing together a portrait of the alleged gunman, who once reportedly described himself as “quiet and easy-going” and was in the process of withdrawing from a graduate program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado.
Holmes is in solitary confinement at a Denver-area detention centre, being held without bond on suspicion of multiple counts of first degree murder.
An initial court hearing for Holmes has been scheduled for Monday.