Get news updates from WGBH
Mon December 17, 2012
President Obama to Newtown: 'You Are Not Alone'
In a speech to the community of Newtown, CT, President Obama assured the survivors of Friday’s school shooting at Sandyhook Elementary that they were not alone — that both their neighbors and their country grieved with them for the loss of 20 children and 7 adults.
“I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight,” he said.
And Newtown was not alone. As the President spoke, hundreds of people gathered outside around a Christmas tree, which residents of Newtown adorn every year to mark the beginning of the holiday season. This year, however, the decorations were different. Underneath the tree, instead of the community’s usual presents, there were hundreds of candles lit in memory of the shooting’s victims.
Some of the candles were lit by local members of the community as they grieved their loss. But others were lit by visitors, mourners who came from as far as Huntsville, Alabama and even Scandinavia to pay tribute to the victims and show empathy for the survivors.
Along with expressing their grief and solidarity, the visitors to Newtown called for a change in the national discussion about gun control. They spoke of ending gun violence, or of making it more difficult to purchase guns. Many expressed general laments, but others issued a call to action — one man called for the reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban, which lapsed in 2005.
President Obama addressed these concerns in his speech to Newtown residents. Without turning the memorial into a political discussion, the President told the community that he would ensure their grief and outrage does not go unanswered in Washington.
“We can’t accept events like this as routine,” he said. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
As the new week begins, those stricken with grief in Newtown are waiting to see the effects of the President’s words. But they are not waiting alone.