Picture of heroism in the face of tragedy emerges as Newtown grieves for fallen
He said he hoped the tragedy visited on his family and town would “not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people”.
Portraits of other victims emerged. Ana Marquez-Green (6) was the daughter of the accomplished jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who moved his family to Newtown in July. Mr Greene’s son hid in another classroom and was not hurt.
The pictures of many of the children, and their teachers, filled the front pages and television screens across the US, part of a national grieving process which some say will give impetus for gun control in a country where nearly half the citizens own guns.
Mr Obama’s visit to Newtown is hardly his first in the wake of a mass shooting. He visited Fort Hood in 2009 after a US army psychiatrist opened fire and killed 13 soldiers and civilians at the Texas army base. The president went to Tucson, Arizona, last year after a man shot and killed six people and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others outside a supermarket. And last July he went to Aurora, Colorado, after a man opened fire inside a cinema during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people.
While Mr Obama’s role as comforter-in-chief is well established, it remains to be seen what he can do legislatively to reduce the number of mass shootings that have increased in America even as violent crime in general has declined.
The president was visibly shaken on Friday, when he addressed the nation in the wake of the shootings, but up until now he has studiously avoided incurring the wrath of the nation’s rich and influential gun lobby.
Yesterday, many of Newtown’s 27,000 residents flocked to church services, seeking comfort.
“How do we rejoice in the face of so much sorrow?” Rev Peter Cameron asked during his homily at Saint Rose of Lima Church as worshippers, including the husband of one of the teachers killed, listened and wiped back tears.
Outside, a plethora of news media gathered, their trucks clogging the narrow streets of the normally sleepy town, suggesting a presence that will last long after a week of funerals is over.