« Border Patrol Agent Accused of Hiding Illegal Immigrants, Drugs in Basement | Main | Obama Visits Giffords and Other Victims in the Hospital »

President Obama Seeks to Comfort Americans after Tragedy in Arizona

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- President Obama on Wednesday evening honored the six people killed and at least 13 injured in a mass shooting Saturday with a call for overcoming differences -- both political and personal.

"I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow," President Obama told the "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" memorial service at the University of Arizona's McKale Memorial Center.

Among the injured when a gunman opened fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., outside a Tucson supermarket Saturday morning was Giffords herself. The congresswoman was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head and has been in critical condition ever since.

Obama revealed during his speech that, after he visited with her Wednesday, Giffords opened her eyes for the first time.

"Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her and she knows we are rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey," Obama told the cheering crowd.

The president and first lady were greeted by a standing ovation as they walked into the packed stadium. As he listened to the ceremony before speaking, the president was visibly emotional. Gifford's husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, sat in between the first lady and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

The president focused on the victims and encouraged Americans to live up to the expectations of Christina Taylor Green.

"Imagine: Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future," the president said. "She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted."

One by one, Obama honored each of the six people killed, who, he said, "represented what is best in America." They were Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Christina Taylor Green and Gabe Zimmerman, the only of Giffords' staff to perish in the shooting.

The president also praised "those who saved others" -- the nurses, doctors, policemen, staffers and bystanders who put themselves in harm's way to try and stop the shooter.

The president ended his speech where he began, honoring a victim:

Christina Taylor Green, he said was, "so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle."

The speech itself, just under 20 minutes, was a part of a broader, hour-long program called "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America." The somber event included music, moments of silence, prayers and other speeches.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

ABC News Radio