UK & World News

  • 17 December 2012, 14:19

US Shooting: Obama Visits Newtown In Mourning

Barack Obama has told the families of the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School that mass shooting tragedies "must end".

Speaking at a vigil in memory of the victims, the US president told an emotional audience: "Newtown, you are not alone."

He struggled to maintain his composure - and there was audible sobbing throughout the packed hall - as he read the first names of each of the 20 children killed in America's worst school shooting.

Mr Obama said: "God has called them home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory."

The president also promised to use the power of his office to safeguard Americans from further massacres, telling mourners that the country is "not doing enough" to protect its children.

"These tragedies have to end, and to end them we must change," he said.

"We, as a nation, are left with hard questions."

Mr Obama paid tribute to the six adults who lost their lives when 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a rampage through the school armed with an assault rifle.

He said: "We know when danger arrived the school staff did not flinch. They responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances. With courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care."

"I come to offer the love and cares of the nation. I'm very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow.

"I can only hope it helps for you to know you're not alone in your grief - our world too has been torn apart ... we have wept with you."

Mr Obama's visit comes as the town braces itself for the first funerals for victims of Friday's shooting.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy told the audience Mr Obama had said the day of the shootings had been the most difficult of his presidency so far.

Mr Obama also met emergency service workers who were among the first on the scene, minutes after the shooting started.

Kevin Paturzo, 25, said: "Just him coming to this town is much appreciated.

"It's a small community, everybody knows everybody around here. Him coming out here, reaching out to the families is deeply respected, but it's going to take a lot of grieving."

At a packed St Rose Catholic Church, the priest's announcements included news that the Christmas pageant rehearsal would go on as planned, but without six-year-old Olivia Engel, who died before she could play the role of an angel.

Shortly before Mr Obama was due to arrive, worshippers at the church close to the school were evacuated after a reported bomb threat.

Armed police were sent but it was quickly decided that there was no danger to the public.

Makeshift memorials have appeared around the town, the largest of which sits at the end of Dickenson Drive where Sandy Hook Elementary stands.

Lanza's motive remains unclear. He killed his mother before heading to the school and committed suicide as police closed in.

Authorities said on Sunday that Lanza was carrying hundreds of rounds of deadly ammunition, enough to kill just about every student in the school if given time.

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