Bush Joins Mourners At Virginia Tech
This May 25, 2012, photo, shows actor Isaac Lamb and Amy Frankel in Portland, Ore. Lamb joined about 60 people on a small street near his house last week to propose to Frankel. He?s pitching it as the world?s first lip-synched proposal and there don?t appear to be any challengers. Lamb?s marriage proposal notched 5 million hits on YouTube. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Alysha Beck) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT / Alysha Beck
"Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow," he said in six-minute remarks at a convocation on the campus where 33 people, including the suspected gunman, died in two separate shootings the day before. "This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation."
Before flying to the tragedy-stricken university in southwestern Virginia, Mr. Bush also ordered flags flown at half staff and issued a written proclamation in honor of those killed and wounded.
Speaking to a somber basketball arena, packed with students and others, many wearing orange short-sleeved Virgina Tech T-shirts, the president encouraged grieving students to reach out for help.
"To all of you who are OK, I'm happy for that," Mr. Bush said. "To those of you who are in pain or who have lost someone close to you, I'm sure you can call on any one of us and have help anytime you need it."
Quoting scripture, he told those angered by the killings not to be overcome by evil.
"People who have never met you are praying for you," Mr. Bush said. "They're praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There's a power in these prayers, a real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God."
Before the service, the president received a briefing on the shootings and their investigation from Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. Afterward, he was granting interviews to news anchors from NBC, CBS and ABC.
Mr. Bush spoke on a day of raw emotion. He spoke to students who he said had just lived through the worst day of their lives.
"On this terrible day of mourning, it's hard to imagine a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal, but such a day will come," Mr. Bush said. "And when it does, you will always remember the friends and teachers who were lost yesterday, and the time you shared with them, and the lives that they hoped to lead."
Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sent 12 agents to Virginia Tech and the FBI has contributed some 15 agents as well for the investigation. The federal help, including input from the U.S. Attorney's office in the Western District of Virginia, is being coordinated at a command center set up on the campus.
In addition to helping with the crime scene, the Department of Justice is making counselors available to victims and their families through a special office and the Education Department is offering assistance as well.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino deflected any questions about the president's view of needed changes to gun control policy, saying the time for that discussion is not now.
"We understand that there's going to be and there has been an ongoing national discussion, conversation and debate about gun control policy. Of course we are going to be participants in that conversation," she said. "Today, however, is a day that is time to focus on the families, the school, the community."
Perino added: "Everyone's been shaken to the core by this event and so I think what we need to do is focus on support of the victims and their families and then also allow the facts of the case to unfold before we talk any more about policies."
In times of tragedy, Americans turn to the president to be the nation's consoler and comforter.
Mr. Bush rallied the nation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. One of the most enduring images of his presidency is Mr. Bush standing atop a pile of rubble in New York with a bullhorn in his hand. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, he made repeated trips to the region but wound up criticized for the government's sluggish response to the storm.
President Clinton went to Oklahoma City in 1995 after the bombing of the federal building there, and his on-the-scene empathy was later viewed as the key factor in reviving his presidency and helping him win re-election.
Mr. Bush first spoke about the shootings on Monday afternoon, expressing shock and sadness about the killings from the White House. He lamented that schools should be places of "safety, sanctuary and learning" — similar to remarks he has made in the past after school shootings.
Many of the 2008 presidential candidates issued statements on the shootings Monday.
Republican Rudy Giuliani called it a "day of national tragedy, when we lost some of our finest to a senseless act."
"As a parent, I am filled with sorrow for the mothers and fathers and loved ones struggling with the sudden, unbearable news of a lost son or daughter, friend or family member," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
"We are simply heartbroken by the deaths and injuries suffered at Virginia Tech," said Democratic hopeful John Edwards. "We know what an unspeakable, life-changing moment this is for these families and how, in this moment, it is hard to feel anything but overwhelming grief, much less the love and support around you. But the love and support is there."
Republican candidate Mitt Romney said: "The entire nation grieves for the victims of this terrible tragedy that took place today on the campus of Virginia Tech. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire Virginia Tech community. Our full support is behind the law enforcement officials who are involved with stabilizing the situation and conducting an investigation."
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said the nation is mourning the dead and praying for their families and for the wounded.
"We are a grieving and shocked nation," said Obama. "Violence has once again taken too many young people from this world."
In Laredo, Texas, Sen. John McCain was asked if the rampage has changed his views on gun control.
"Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens," said the Arizona Republican. "I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon... And so, obviously, we have to look at what happened here, but it doesn't change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don't fall into the hands of bad people."
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