Last Updated on December 23, 2015 by bvnadmin

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“As difficult as this time is for them and for the entire community, they’re also representative of the strength and the unity and the love that exists in this community and in this country.” 

President Barack Obama

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When President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stepped off Air Force One at the San Bernardino International Airport last Friday evening, their presence was welcomed by many as a balm of healing, compassion, hope and inspiration for grieving families and a shattered community.

Upon arrival, the Obamas were whisked away to Indian Springs High School in San Bernardino where the families of victims and first responders of the December 2nd terrorist attack waited anxiously.

The somber meetings, held in the school library, were in keeping with a distressing and poignant tradition that has continued to haunt the Obama presidency as he and the First Lady, were once again compelled to reach out, to touch the hands and hearts of grieving families.

The meeting in San Bernardino on Friday with family members of mass-shooting victims was the twelfth such somber gathering initiated by Obama since he came to office in 2008; twelve mass shootings, twelve speeches in response, twelve intimate sessions with grieving families—a heartbreaking legacy that weighs heavily not only on the hearts of the Obamas but the nation as well.

What seemed to stand out most about this visit was its unhurried nature. The Obamas spent much longer than expected, nearly three hours, meeting one on one with the grieving families. The President spent up to ten minutes with each individual family. At times as appropriate, the First Lady took the young children of a family aside and read to them creating space for the parents to interact with the President without the filters or emotional guards one might expect to protect the sensibilities of children in the wake of a tragedy of such magnitude.

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“He spoke as if he was a member of our family”

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“Uplifting, inspiring, appreciated, healing,” were just a few of the adjectives used by family members to describe their interactions with the President and First Lady. “He spoke as if he was a member of our family,” one commented. “He said to me, ‘I got you’”, shared Mandy Pifer the girlfriend of Shannon Johnson, one of the 14 people killed in the terrorist rampage.

Immediately after the three hours spent with family members and first responders, the President made a few brief comments to the press.

“Despite the pain and heartache that they are feeling,” he shared in reference to the families, “They could not have been more inspiring and more proud of their loved ones or more insistent that something good comes out of this tragedy.”

The President also stressed to those in attendance, “As we go into the holiday season, even as we are vigilant about preventing terrorist attacks from happening, even as we insist we can’t accept the notion of mass shootings in public places, in places of work and worship, we have to remind ourselves of the overwhelming good that exists out there.”

To that end the President praised the families for their courage and commitment to use the tragedy for good. “Many of them are already taking the initiative to reach out and to speak out on behalf of community and tolerance,” he stressed.

A total of 14 people were shot to death and 22 injured by co-worker turned terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook, as they attended a holiday banquet on December 2nd at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center. Many of the nine men and five women killed along with Farook, all worked at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.

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Story by BVN Contributor S.E. Williams

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Remarks by the President After Meeting the Families of the Victims of the San Bernardino Shooting

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Indian Springs High School

San Bernardino, California

10:53 P.M. PST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Just had a chance to meet with the families of the majority of the victims of the San Bernardino tragedy.  It was so moving for Michelle and myself in part because it was so representative of the country.  You had people from every background, every faith.  Some described their loved ones who had come to this country as immigrants; others who had lived in the area all their lives — all of them extraordinarily proud of the work they were doing to keep people healthy and safe here in this community.

And as difficult as this time is for them and for this entire community, they’re also representative of the strength and the unity and the love that exists in this community and in this country.  And as we go into the holiday season, even as we are vigilant about preventing terrorist attacks from happening, even as we insist that we can’t accept the notion of mass shootings in public places and places of work and worship, we have to remind ourselves of the overwhelming good that exists out there.

And we met some of these folks.  Despite the pain and the heartache that they’re feeling, they could not have been more inspiring, and more proud of their loved ones, and more insistent that something good comes out of this tragedy.  And many of them are already taking initiatives to reach out, to speak out on behalf of community and tolerance and treating people with respect.  Many were interested in how we can prevent shootings like this from happening in the future.

It was a reminder of what’s good in this country.  And I hope that’s something that gives all Americans a sense of pride and a sense of hope as we go into our celebrations of our faith and our families and our country.

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S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.