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

  • Judge to decide if N.B. cops to face manslaughter trial

    Canada News CTV News
    BATHURST, N.B. - A New Brunswick judge is expected to decide today if two Bathurst police officers will stand trial in the shooting death of a Tracadie businessman two years ago. Const. Patrick Bulger and Const. Source
  • Shooting of two Indian men in Kansas bar sends shock waves in India

    World News CTV News
    HYDERABAD, India - The shooting of two Indians in a crowded suburban Kansas City bar has sent shock waves through their hometowns, and India's government is rushing diplomats to monitor progress in investigation into the crime. Source
  • A look at chemical weapons North Korea possesses

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - North Korea may have found a new use for its large stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, which are meant to attack South Korean and U.S. troops in case of another war. Source
  • Banned chemical weapon VX is a potent killer

    World News CTV News
    The banned chemical weapon VX is considered by some experts to be the nastiest of the nasty nerve agents known to exist. With a consistency similar to motor oil, it lingers for long periods in the environment and even a tiny amount causes victims' bodies to flood with fluids, producing a feeling of drowning before death. Source
  • Refugees crossing U.S. border heading to Toronto, agencies say

    Canada News CBC News
    Many of the asylum seekers crossing the Canadian border in places like Manitoba and Quebec will wind up in Toronto, say those who care for refugees. Those who run shelters or provide medical care for newcomers say they're keeping a close eye on the situation, as more and more people leave the U.S. Source
  • Trudeau's Privy Council Office budget the highest in a decade

    Canada News CBC News
    The budget for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Privy Council Office is set to rise by 20 per cent this year, making it one of the largest budgets for the office in a decade. According to spending estimates tabled in the House of Commons Thursday, the budget for the Privy Council Office will jump to $144.9 million for the coming fiscal year from $120.7 million. Source
  • Plenty of budget remedies offered as Liberals prepare prescription for ailing economy: Chris Hall

    Canada News CBC News
    It's that time of year again when everyone connected with politics starts looking at what could be, or more precisely, what should be in the federal budget. It's the Ottawa equivalent of sharing home remedies for the common cold. Source
  • Toronto Public Health concerned new anti-HIV drug could contribute to spread of other STDs

    Canada News CBC News
    Researchers call it a miracle drug: one blue pill, taken every day, that can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by almost 90 per cent. But one year after it was approved by Health Canada, Toronto Public Health is concerned PrEP provides a false sense of invincibility for some users that could contribute to the city's rising rates for other sexually transmitted diseases. Source
  • Denis Villeneuve is Hollywood's new (Canadian) king of sci-fi

    Canada News CBC News
    Director Denis Villeneuve feels lucky. Not only has his film Arrival brought him to the Oscars for the second time, but he's currently hard at work on the sequel to Blade Runner. It's the kind of sci-fi epic Villeneuve could only have dreamt of growing up in the small Quebec town of Gentilly on the St. Source
  • 5 things to know about illegal border crossings into Canada

    Canada News CBC News
    Why are people illegally crossing the border into Canada? The promised travel ban and immigration crackdown by U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be prompting many to head north. This week the UN refugee agency's representative in Canada, Jean-Nicolas Beuze, visited the crossing at Lacolle, Que. Source