Obama meets with, comforts victims of San Bernardino shooting

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The girlfriend of one of the 14 people killed in the Dec. 2 shooting in San Bernardino said President Barack Obama immediately asked her for a hug when he came to talk with her.

See Full Article

Obama and his wife, Michelle, met with members of each of the 14 families in the library of Indian Springs High School on Friday night before heading to Hawaii for their annual holiday getaway. A separate table was set up for each family, and the Obamas moved from one to the next, spending about 10 minutes with each victim's relatives.

When Obama approached the table where Mandy Pifer was sitting, he said, "Words aren't enough. How about a hug?"

Pifer's boyfriend Shannon Johnson, 45, was killed in the attack.

"I've been watching you give hugs," Pifer recalled telling him. "I need a hug."

"It just felt like they were really present in their conversation with me," she said. "They are sick and tired of doing these things, meeting our families."

Obama said meeting with the families was a reminder "of what's good in this country."

"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," Obama said late Friday after the meetings with family members.

Pifer had told the Obamas about Johnson, how he loved life, his virtues and their future plans. She also shared with them what she knows about his last moments: His colleague Denise Peraza, who survived the attack, said he huddled with her under a table as bullets flew across the room. He held her close and told her, "I got you."

Peraza credits Johnson with her survival, and since then the phrase "I got you" has spread across social media.

When she mentioned the phrase to the Obamas, they nodded, indicating it was a story they already knew, she said. She brought a sign stating ".IGotYou" that they all posed for a photo with it. Johnson and Peraza are in the initial stages of planning a foundation in Johnson's memory.

"I feel like they're on my side," she said. "They're on our side. And that he's going to keep working to make this better even after he's left office. It's personal for them."

The Obamas encouraged her to reach out and promised to provide whatever support they could.

"Mrs. Obama she did say that she would rap or perform at our fundraising concert," Pifer said. "I will try to make her keep her word on that."

Pifer said the Obamas' visit was helpful.

"It's helping the grieving process," Pifer said. "It was very comforting."

Obama said the family members were "inspiring" as they spoke with pride about their loved ones.

"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," he said.

Ahead of the visit, two victim relatives described conflicting emotions: One hopeful, the other with doubt.

"It won't bring any closure to us," said Evelyn Godoy, whose sister-in-law, Aurora Godoy, the mother of a toddler, was killed in the attack. "But it's nice he's going to stop."

In the aftermath of the massacre, families of those killed have grieved while also slowly learning the unsettling details about the couple, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, who killed their loved ones. Federal investigators say they pledged allegiance to the leader of Islamic State terror organization before executing the attack at a holiday meeting Dec. 2. Twenty-one others were injured in the attack. Both Farook and Malik were later killed in a gunfight with police.

"Of course we have questions and we would like to know how and what happened," said Robel Tekleab, whose brother-in-law, Isaac Amanios, 60, was killed. "But that is for another time. Tomorrow is all about grieving together and comforting each other."

Amanios greatly admired Obama, raising money for his 2008 campaign even through the immigrant from Eritrea was still not eligible to vote, said Tekleab, who worked as a field staffer on the president's 2012 re-election campaign. Amanios even travelled to D.C. to attend Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Tekleab said he wants Obama to know who his brother-in-law was. "His presence itself is comforting," he said.

Evelyn Godoy said she didn't know what her family was hoping to hear. On the one hand, his visit felt like a nice gesture. On the other, when she read in the news that he was stopping on his way to Hawaii for his vacation she couldn't help but feel "like we were a throw in."

"At the end of the day my sister-in-law isn't coming back," she said. "It doesn't bring her back."

Associated Press Writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • UN council to discuss report calling on Canada to address anti-black racism

    Canada News CTV News
    NEW YORK, United Nations -- The UN Human Rights Council is set to discuss a report on issues affecting African-Canadians that makes recommendations to the federal government, including that it apologize for slavery and consider providing reparations for historical injustices. Source
  • Hurricane Maria set Puerto Rico back decades: official

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress said Sunday that Hurricane Maria's destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage. Source
  • Baghdad orders Kurdistan region to hand over borders, ports

    World News CTV News
    BAGHDAD -- Iraq's central government in Baghdad ordered the country's Kurdish region to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control late Sunday night, hours before the region is set to carry out a controversial referendum on support for independence. Source
  • Engineers inspecting Puerto Rico's cracked dam that could 'collapse at any minute'

    World News CBC News
    Puerto Rico's government says engineers will inspect the Guajataca Dam on Sunday to determine the extent of damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria last week. The dam in the northwest corner of the island was cracked, but had not burst by late Saturday. Source
  • Merkel wins 4th term but nationalists surge in German vote

    World News Toronto Sun
    BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel was widely expected to win a fourth term in office as Germans went to the polls on Sunday in an election that is also likely to see the farthest right-wing party in 60 years, the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany, win seats in parliament. Source
  • Police say gunman kills 1, injures 7 at church

    World News CTV News
    Authorities in Tennessee say one person is dead and seven people sustained injuries after a gunman opened fire at a church in Nashville. Metro Nashville Police Department says the gunman was wounded and was taken to a hospital. Source
  • 1 dead, at least 6 hurt in church shooting: officials

    World News CTV News
    NASHVILLE -- A masked gunman entered a church in Tennessee on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least one person and injuring others before apparently shooting himself in the head, an official said. At least six people were being treated for injuries after the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the neighbourhood in Antioch, according to Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department. Source
  • Gunman captured after 1 killed, 8 injured in Tennessee church shooting

    World News CBC News
    Police in Nashville, Tenn., say a gunman has been captured after opening fire at a church, killing one and wounding seven. Nashville fire department spokesman Joseph Pleasant says the wounded were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. Source
  • 1 killed, 7 injured in Tennessee church shooting

    World News CBC News
    Police in Nashville, Tenn., say a gunman has been captured after opening fire at a church, killing one and wounding seven. Nashville fire department spokesman Joseph Pleasant says the wounded were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. Source
  • 'Take a knee': Athletes and celebrities call for protest after Donald Trump's tweets

    World News CBC News
    LeBron James called him "a bum." J.K. Rowling cited "privilege." and Stevie Wonder knelt in solidarity at his concert Saturday — Donald Trump's latest feud attacking some of America's best athletes is spilling over into a much wider and deeper confrontation. Source