Sandy Hook school shooting: President Obama prepares to address Newtown at emotional memorial service


'These tragedies MUST end': Obama signals tougher gun laws just moments after comforting devastated families of Sandy Hook massacre victimsPresident led interfaith service in Newtown, Connecticut Sunday night'We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change,' Mr Obama said at memorialPresident questioned if we are 'prepared to say that such violence visited on our children is somehow the price of our freedom'
Mourners waited in drizzling rain for hours to access eventA number of families whose children attend Sandy Hook Elementary School were frustrated after being denied seats even though visitors were waved into auditorium

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UPDATED:

19:11 GMT, 17 December 2012

In the wake of Friday's unspeakable tragedy, it is hard to imagine that anyone would be smiling in Newtown, Connecticut.

But when the President visited the small New England town where a crazed gunman took 27 innocent lives, he managed to lift the hearts and spirits of some grieving families, who took brief solace in his mere presence.

Mr Obama also told mourners that the U.S. was not doing enough to protect its children and pledged a huge effort to 'prevent more tragedies like this.'

In one emotional meeting, a heart-broken President embraced Robbie Parker, father-to-father, over the senseless death of his six-year-old daughter Emilie.

But it was smiles all around when he gathered her younger sisters and some other children around to chat with them and pose for a photo – a brief moment of joy among the sadness.

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All smiles: President Obama is able to temporarily lift the spirits of young victim Emilie Parker's siblings and some other guests while meeting with the families before speaking at the interfaith service

All smiles: President Obama is able to temporarily lift the spirits of young victim Emilie Parker's siblings and some other guests while meeting with the families before speaking at the interfaith service

Presidential embrace: Mr Obama talked to grieving father Robbie Parker, appearing to connect on a personal level

 Emilie Alice Parker

Presidential embrace: Mr Obama talked to grieving father Robbie Parker about the loss of his daughter Emilie Parker, pictured right in a photo released by the family

Family photo: Mr Obama joined the parents and their two remaining daughters

Family photo: Mr Obama joined the parents and their two remaining daughters

Loving family: Robbie Parker, pictured with his wife and three daughters with Emilie on the far right

Loving family: Robbie Parker, pictured with his wife and three daughters with Emilie on the far right

He took the time to reach out to another grieving family as he held the granddaughter of school principal Dawn Hochsprung tightly in his arms, as he marveled over the brave actions of the woman who lost her life trying to prevent the gunman from entering the building.

Her daughter Cristina Hassinger tweeted a picture with the poignant caption: 'My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her'.

The personal approach to the evening continued when Mr Obama used scripture in an effort to comfort the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Supporting those left behind: President Obama hugged the granddaughter of heroic principal Dawn Hochsprung who was shot to death trying to protect the students

President Obama hugged the granddaughter of heroic principal Dawn Hochsprung who was shot to death trying to protect the students

'You are not alone in your grief,' President Obama said. 'All across this land our world too has
been torn apart. All across this land we wept with you and pulled our
children tight. Newtown, you are not alone.'

In one of the most religious speeches of his presidency, Mr Obama talked about how the ultimate goal for a society is to protect their children.

'If
we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. /12/17/article-2249148-168C1D88000005DC-854_634x422.jpg” width=”634″ height=”422″ alt=”Emotional: President Obama spoke slowly and deliberately during the memorial service on Sunday night” class=”blkBorder” />

Emotional: President Obama spoke slowly and deliberately during the memorial service on Sunday night

'We've pulled our children tight': A mother holds her child during the memorial service

'We've pulled our children tight': A mother holds her child during the memorial service

Remembering those not there: A woman brought a class photo that included some of the victims

Remembering those not there: A woman brought a class photo that included some of the victims

Touching: The most poignant portion of the speech came when President Obama read the names of each of the 20 young victims

Touching: The most poignant portion of the speech came when President Obama read the names of each of the 20 young victims

In his introduction, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy said that Mr Obama told him privately that Friday was the most difficult day of his term in office

In his introduction, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy said that Mr Obama told him privately that Friday was the most difficult day of his term in office

In his
introduction, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy said that Mr Obama told
him privately that Friday was the most difficult day of his term in
office.

Deep sobs and sniffles filled the
room throughout the service – but tears did not truly begin until Jason
Graves took the podium to offer a Muslim prayer on behalf of the Al
Hedeya Islamic Center of Newtown.

Mr Graves' voice choked and crackled
as he assured the mourners that God's love was there for anyone asked
for it.

Adults and children sitting in the
audience, who initially turned their faces away as a prayer was recited
in Arabic, were reduced to deep sorrowful cries.

The service started nearly an hour
late because the President was delayed by spending more time than
expected meeting with the families of the victims from Friday's
shooting.

Lining up: People wait in line to enter Newtown High School for a memorial vigil attended by President Barack Obama

Lining up: People wait in line to enter Newtown High School for a memorial vigil attended by President Barack Obama

Showing he stands with Connecticut: The President flew to Newton on Sunday afternoon and spent hours meeting with victims families prior to the memorial service

Showing he stands with Connecticut: The President flew to Newton on Sunday afternoon and spent hours meeting with victims families prior to the memorial service

The community of Sandy Hook comfort each others before President Barack Obama speaks about the 26 people who were shot dead, including twenty children, after gunman Adam Lanza opened fire in the school

The community of Sandy Hook comfort each others before President Barack Obama speaks about the 26 people who were shot dead, including twenty children, after gunman Adam Lanza opened fire in the school

People pray at Mountainside Assembly of God Church in Coal Township during a interfaith prayer vigil, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, for the victims of Newtown, Connecticut

People pray at Mountainside Assembly of God Church in Coal Township during a interfaith prayer vigil, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, for the victims of Newtown, Connecticut

Once
the family visits were finished, the President entered into the packed
auditorium where decorations were kept very sparse.

Along with the
American and Connecticut flags on stage, a table in front of the podium
was filled with candles to memorialize the victims, and a pianist played
solemn songs on a grand piano.

Yesterday morning Robbie Parker fought back tears as he spoke lovingly for the first time of his deceased daughter at a press conference, telling of how he had been teaching her Portuguese and their final conversation was one where she said that she loved him.

Political players: President Obama shakes the hand of state senate minority leader John McKinney when he walked into the auditorium

Political players: President Obama shakes the hand of state senate minority leader John McKinney when he walked into the auditorium

Warmth in cold times: The Red Cross provided blankets for attendees to wrap around themselves and stuffed animals for many of the children who were in the audience

Warmth in cold times: The Red Cross provided blankets for attendees to wrap around themselves and stuffed animals for many of the children who were in the audience

Attention: Mourners listen to a memorial service over a loudspeaker outside Newtown High School

Attention: Mourners listen to a memorial service over a loudspeaker outside Newtown High School

President Barack Obama reflects during an interfaith vigil for families of the victims as well as families from Sandy Hook Elementary School

President Barack Obama reflects during an interfaith vigil for families of the victims as well as families from Sandy Hook Elementary School

Several families whose children were
at Sandy Hook Elementary school during the shooting were denied access
to the auditorium where President Barack Obama spoke tonight because
organizers allowed hundreds of people from outside the community in
first.

'We're very disappointed,' said one mother who was forced to watch the president on a video screen in the gym.

Hans
Barth, who had two children at the school on the day of the horrific
shooting, said he brought his son and daughter to the memorial service
with the president hoping that it would help them confront the horror
they experienced on the day of the shooting.

'They're in shock right now,' he said.

Vigil: Kate Suba, left, Jaden Albrecht, center, and Simran Chand pay their respects at one of the makeshift memorials

Vigil: Kate Suba, left, Jaden Albrecht, center, and Simran Chand pay their respects at one of the makeshift memorials

A
Newtown High School teacher who was helping seat people inside the gym
said the organizers were aware that several of the Sandy Hook families
had been left out, but, she said organizers had already managed to find
seats in the auditorium for 40 additional families from the elementary
school.

Families lined
up started as early as 3.30pm or 4pm, even though President Obama did
not take the stage until shortly before 8pm.

Mr
Barth said he could not understand why the organizers allowed the
auditorium to fill with people from outside the community at the expense
of families who endured the tragedy firsthand.

'They
didn't even differentiate between us. This place is full of
Sandy-Hookers. The other people coming in before us, I didn't even
recognize a single face,' he said.

Michelle Capozza and her mother Maggie traveled from Westin, Connecticut to show their support for the Newtown victims.

'We
thought it was beautiful, we really felt that people loved him. It was
really everything we came here to see,' Michelle said.

Packed house: Sharon Bertrand, center, listens with her daughter Daysha, 13, left, and son Juan, to a memorial service over a loudspeaker outside Newtown High School

Packed house: Sharon Bertrand, center, listens with her daughter Daysha, 13, left, and son Juan, to a memorial service over a loudspeaker outside Newtown High School

Memories: New London, Connecticut resident Rachel Pullen, center, kisses her son Landon DeCecco at a memorial

Memories: New London, Connecticut resident Rachel Pullen, center, kisses her son Landon DeCecco at a memorial

Pausing to reflect: A 3-year-old girl is accompanied by her father while lighting a candle outside of Newton High School while President Obama spoke at the memorial service

Pausing to reflect: A 3-year-old girl is accompanied by her father while lighting a candle outside of Newton High School while President Obama spoke at the memorial service

Remembrance: Attendees release paper lanterns during a vigil for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting yesterday in Omaha, Nebraska

Remembrance: Attendees release paper lanterns during a vigil for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting yesterday in Omaha, Nebraska

Luz Rodriguez brought her small daughter from Bridgeport to hear the president speak.

She said she wanted her child, the nearly same age as the small victims of the shooting, to hear

Obama's uplifting message and she thought it was important to come pay respects.

'It was very moving, very powerful,' she said.

Ms
Rodriguez said she believes that there should be tougher gun control
laws, but she doesn't blame the president for not explicitly pushing for
new restrictions.

'It wasn't the right time,' she said.

Those families were some of the hundreds
of people huddled in a miserable drizzle as they waited in line at
Newtown High School to see President Barack Obama preside over an
interfaith worship ceremony on Sunday night.

Heart wrenching: Family friends comforted one another in the High School auditorium

Heart wrenching: Family friends comforted one another in the High School auditorium

All ages of victims: Because of the many school age children who were killed, their friends and school mates made up a large portion of the audience

All ages of victims: Because of the many school age children who were killed, their friends and school mates made up a large portion of the audience

Several
members of the audience clutched red cross blankets around their
shoulders as they huddled together, many of them breaking down in tears
throughout the service.

The
same blankets were handed out while the attendees waited in the long
line that wrapped around the building and snaked through the parking lot
before heading inside to get settled for the service.

The President reportedly wrote much
of the speech himself, but he did work with the same speech writer who
helped him write the remarks in Tuscon, Arizona after the shooting which
left Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in critical condition.

The
speechwriter also helped on the eulogy that the President gave for
Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral.

Outgoing Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator-elect Christopher Murphy were all in attendance.

Emotional hugs: The first responders were greeted with embraces from friends as they walked in the auditorium

Emotional hugs: The first responders were greeted with embraces from friends as they walked in the auditorium

Standing ovation: The entire room got to their feet when the responders entered

Standing ovation: The entire room got to their feet when the responders entered

While the President met with victims' families, the Senators circulated the auditorium, talking to their grieving constituents.

President Obama’s initial press conference on Friday just hours after the shooting took place was one of the most emotional of his four years in office.

At one point, he was so overcome by the thought of the 20 dead children who had 'their whole lives ahead of them' that the typically-stoic President had to pause for a poignant 12 seconds to regain his composure before continuing.

Support: For many neighbors, this was the first time that they saw one another since the shooting

Support: For many neighbors, this was the first time that they saw one another since the shooting

Even at that point, he shortened the remarks from their expected length because he could not make it through.

On Saturday, he dedicated his weekly radio and internet address to a discussion of the shooting, saying that it was time to 'take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this'.

He is not the only one bringing up the issue of gun control- even though he did not go so far as to give any specifics of how he would take such action.

His visit to Connecticut on Sunday night comes as politicians begin to discuss possible legislation to ban rifles and assault weapons with high-capacity clips like those used by shooter Adam Lanza during the massacre.

President Obama openly wept as he spoke of the mindless shooting, saying, 'Our hearts are broken today'

President Obama openly wept as he spoke of the mindless shooting, saying, 'Our hearts are broken today'

obama

Shocked: The President said he felt not as a President, but as a 'parent'… and that he 'knows theres not a parent in America who doesnt feel the same overwhelming grief that I do

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein had the opposite response to Mr Gohmert, announcing on Meet The Press that she plans to introduce a bill that would 'aim at limiting the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons, along with the capacity of high-capacity magazines.

She said that her bill- along with a similar bill in the House of Representatives- will be proposed on the first day of the next Congress when politicians return after the holidays.

The nation's addiction to guns will likely be addressed in coming weeks as new numbers reveal that more than 2 million guns were purchased in America in November.

On Black Friday alone, the FBI was asked to process 154,000 background checks for prospective gun owners.

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