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Sandy Hook school shooting: Somber President Obama prepares to address the inconsolable community of Newtown at an emotional memorial service for the 26 victims of Sandy Hook school shooting
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By Meghan Keneally and Michael Zennie In Newtown, Connecticut
PUBLISHED: 20:03 EST, 16 December 2012 | UPDATED: 21:31 EST, 16 December 2012
President Obama turned to scripture and emotional pleas in an effort to comfort the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
'You are not alone in your grief. Our world too has been torn apart,' 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. By that measure, can we truly say as a nation that we are doing our obligations?' he said.
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Emotional: President Obama spoke slowly and deliberately during the memorial service on Sunday night
Touching: The most poignant portion of the speech came when President Obama read the names of each of the 20 young victims
'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 have been any town in America.
'All across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We've pulled our children tight, and you must know whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide it.'
As expected, he made several references to the prospective- and likely- legal battles that will come as politicians fight for tougher restrictions on guns in the wake of the shooting. That said, he was clear to avoid specific plans, but took aim at the arguments made by activists who point to the Second Amendment's right to bare arms as a reason to keep guns accessible.
'Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?' he said.
'We've pulled our children tight': A mother holds her child during the memorial service
A particularly poignant moment came in the speech when Mr Obama read the first names of all 20 children who died in the shooting.
'We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage?' he said, referring to the four other mass shootings that have taken place since Mr Obama was elected.
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.
The Newtown High School auditorium was packed with 900 people, and an additional 700 people jammed into the 'overflow room' set up in the gym where screens projected the speech.
The interfaith service started off with speeches by Reverend Matt Crebbin and a prayer sung by Rabbi Shaul Praver, though the anticipation for President Obama's speech was palpable.
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.
Taking the stage: President Obama spoke after representatives from a number of area religious groups
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
Bracing himself: President Obama was seated in the front row of the service as he listened to religious leaders begin the emotional remembrance ceremony
One of those visits was with Cristina Hassinger, the grown daughter of school principal Dawn Hochsprung who died trying to prevent the shooter from entering the building.
Supporting those left behind: President Obama hugged the granddaughter of heroic principal Dawn Hochsprung who was shot to death trying to protect the students
Ms Hassinger tweeted a picture of the President holding her own young daughter 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'.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
The Red Cross passed out blankets and stuffed puppies to the huddled masses who stood outside the school.
The line wrapped around the building and snaked through the parking lot. Cars lined the roads leading to the school people crowded little Newtown to grieve with the 'Consoler in Chief.'
Prior to taking the stage at the interfaith ceremony at 7pm, the President met with families of the victims inside the classrooms in the high school.
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
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
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
Remembering those not there: A woman brought a class photo that included some of the victims
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'
Shocked: The President said he felt not as a President, but as a 'parent'... and that he 'knows there¿s not a parent in America who doesn¿t 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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