Obama speaks at Joplin memorial for tornado victims
The president attended the memorial after touring the scene of last week's tornado, which killed at least 120 people in Missouri.
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Before the service, Obama's motorcade pulled into a neighborhood where downed trees cleaved open houses, roofs were stripped or blown off, cars were cratered and splintered wood was everywhere. He saw nothing intact, but rather small domestic sights — a view into a room with a TV still in place, a recliner sitting amid rubble, a washer-dryer standing next to a decimated house. American flags were planted here and there in the mess.Skip to next paragraph
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"Sorry for your loss," Obama told an anguished woman, hugging her twice as they talked. Another woman told him that her uncle lives up the road — he survived but his house did not. "Tell your uncle we're praying for him," the president said.
To those working at the scene, the president said: "We appreciate everything you guys are doing. God bless you." One volunteer told him that people were coming in from other states to help in any way they could.
"This is not just your tragedy," Obama said. "This is a national tragedy, and that means there will be a national response." He said: "We are going to be here long after the cameras leave."
Obama returned to the U.S. on Saturday from a six-day European tour of Ireland, Britain, France and Poland. After days of focusing on the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world, Sunday was about an even more critical connection: his own, with the American people. The tornado was the worst in decades, leaving more than 120 dead and hundreds more injured. At least 40 remain unaccounted for.
Consoling his fellow Americans is a task Obama has had to assume with increasing frequency of late: after the mass shooting in Arizona in January in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was injured; when tornadoes struck Tuscaloosa, Ala., last month; and, more recently, when flooding from the Mississippi inundated parts of Memphis, Tenn.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and local clergy, some of whose churches were ravaged, spoke at the service. Some people said it will help them grieve and move forward with rebuilding.
"You need to talk about it," said Dorothy Iwan, 67, whose granddaughter was caught in the storm but uninjured. "You need to process it. You need to know people are behind you."