President Barack Obama toured the rubble and relief efforts in Moore, Okla., Sunday following last week’s devastating tornado that killed 24, destroyed over 1,200 homes and damaged 10,000 more.
“Everywhere, fellow Americans are praying with you, they’re thinking about you, and they want to help,” Obama told Moore residents and first responders at Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died in the storm. “And so I’m just a messenger here today, letting everybody here know that you are not alone, that you’ve got folks behind you.”
It was a familiar role for the consoler in chief, following the Boston Marathon bombing and the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas, last month. On Tuesday, Obama will travel to the Jersey Shore to speak with business owners and inspect Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
“When we say that we’ve got your back, I promise you, we keep our word,” Obama said. “If you talk to folks in Alabama who have been affected over the last couple of years; you talk to the folks at Joplin, who I know have actually sent volunteers down here to Moore; if you talk to folks in New Jersey and New York, they’ll tell you that when we say we’re going to be there until you completely rebuild, we mean it.”
Obama told the story of a Bible found after another deadly tornado in Shawnee, Okla., the day before Moore was hit. It was discovered opened to the words, “A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest.”
“And it’s a reminder, as Scripture often is, that God has a plan, and it’s important, though, that we also recognize we’re an instrument of his will,” Obama said. “And we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore who have been impacted.”
Obama saluted the National Weather Service forecasters who provided warning of the storm, the teachers who sheltered their students with their bodies during it, and the first responders and disaster-relief officials who sprung into action even as the twister continued its devastation.
“We could not be prouder of everyone here for the job they have done,” he said.
The President toured the disaster scene along with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, walking through piles of twisted lumber 10 to 20 ft. tall, scattered bricks and personal belongings that had been in homes a week before. He walked past a bright pink stroller for a child’s doll, a student’s parka and schoolbooks.
Obama then visited a local fire station that had been turned into a command center, where he met with first responders and the families of the students who died at Plaza Towers.