"Across this land of ours, we have wept with you," he tells the people of Newtown

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 17, 2012 07:20 AM
Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

At an interfaith memorial service in Newton, Conn., for those lost in Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, an emotional President Obama told the grieving audience, “We can’t tolerate this anymore,” and vowed “in the coming weeks I’ll use whatever power this office holds” in “preventing more tragedies like this.”

As he told the 1,000 people, including the surviving families, as he spoke on the stark stage of Newtown High School Sunday night, the President said, “I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone. Across this land of ours, we have wept with you.”

And he pledged, “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

Noting this was the fourth time in his presidency the nation has had to deal with senseless acts of gun violence, the President said it was “the fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

“There have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children. Much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He added, “We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.”

The President asked, “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 the price of our freedom?”

Privately, the President met with the relatives of about 15 of those gunned down Friday and with first-responders. He also held the granddaughter of the slain school principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and Hochsprung’s daughter, Cristina Hassinger, Tweeted with a photo of the President with the little girl: My mom would be so proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her.”

His speech cited the heroics of the six Sandy Hook school personnel who sacrificed their own lives trying to protect the children.

As audible sobs were heard from the audience, Obama closed his words by reading the first names of all those killed.

Seven funerals are planned to take place in Newtown on Monday. More will follow in the coming weeks.