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Obama visits Colorado after shooting

Posted at 8:29 PM, Jul 22, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-22 20:29:49-04

By Kevin Liptak

(CNN) — President Barack Obama will assume the now-familiar task of comforting Americans grappling with devastation Sunday as he travels to Aurora, Colorado, two days after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded dozens more at a movie theater there.

The president will meet with families of victims, as well as local officials, in Aurora before continuing on to San Francisco for previously scheduled campaign stops on Monday.

Obama, who was notified of the shooting by his chief counterterrorism adviser Friday morning, cut short a campaign swing through Florida and addressed the shooting at an event early in the day.

“Even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this,” Obama said in Fort Myers. “Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason.”

Obama’s opponent in November’s election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, also halted his campaign Friday, using a previously scheduled stop in New Hampshire to express sorrow for what happened in Colorado.

Sunday won’t be the first time Obama has used his office to comfort survivors of tragedy. In 2011, he traveled to Tucson, Arizona, after a gunman killed six people and wounded several others, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Obama’s speech at a memorial service there drew the praise of his former opponent for the presidency, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“He movingly mourned and honored the victims of Saturday’s senseless atrocity outside Tucson, comforted and inspired the country, and encouraged those of us who have the privilege of serving America,” McCain wrote in the Washington Post after Obama’s remarks.

In 2010, Obama delivered a eulogy for miners killed in the collapse of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, and this spring, the president delivered the commencement address at Joplin High School one year after tornadoes destroyed much of the town and left 161 people dead.

Just last month, Obama traveled to Colorado to tour areas ravaged by wildfires. Sunday’s visit, however, will focus instead on private meetings with families grappling with the loss of their loved ones.

The state’s governor said on CNN on Sunday that Obama initially worried that he would be a distraction in Aurora as the community continues to come to terms with what transpired Friday.

“He, obviously, wants to do what he could to help,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said on “State of the Union.” “He said, ‘If I’m a distraction or problem in any way, I shouldn’t come.’ And as we talked to individuals in the hospital, we talked to the Mayor (Steve) Hogan from the Aurora office, who has done an incredible job, and pretty much I think it was unanimous that if the president could come, it would be a very, very positive thing for this community, especially for the families of the victims.”

Obama will not remain in Aurora for a planned vigil on Sunday evening, Hickenlooper said, explaining that the president’s presence at that event would have detracted from the focus on victims of Friday’s shooting.

“Everyone would have had to come two hours early. It would have overpowered it. And I think it was very sensitive he recognized he’s going to do what he can to help these families but not disrupt anymore than what is absolutely necessary,” the governor said.

Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said Sunday that the victims’ families were eager to meet Obama.

“These families need that kind of contact by our elected leader, and it will be very powerful, and it will help them,” Oates said on CBS. “As awful as what they’ve been through and what they’re going through has been, having the president here is very, very powerful. It means a great deal to them and, I think, all of Aurora.”

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