Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama spoke in Arizona last night in the wake of the shootings there.
Dear Mr. President,
Nice job on the speech last night. I was a little startled by all the cheering and I wondered at first if you were too. I realize it was not billed as a memorial service, but the generally loud atmosphere surprised me. Still, I read a comment from some local leader there who said it was just what the local people needed to release a lot of pent up emotion, so if it worked, so much the better.
I used to possess no understanding of the impact of tragedies like this on the larger community. It was easy to see how and why it affected the people who were directly involved, but the idea that people who simply lived in the area would be traumatized seemed strange. Then the Columbine shootings happened.
I think I've mentioned before that we lived only a few miles from the school, went to events there, and knew some people who were inside during the gunfire. I was also assigned to cover the killings. So for pretty much a straight month I was on the story all day, then sat up half the night talking about it with my wife - about friends who were struggling with grief, guilt, and fear. We were profoundly sad. Not just for those who were hurt or killed, but also for the lost sense of safety in our neighborhood.
Every time we dropped our children off at school (they were very young), a creepy nervousness seemed to hover nearby. Parks where we'd played with them felt uncomfortable. Favorite restaurants didn't seem so inviting. Even our church, where President Clinton met with the victims’ families, seemed oddly uncomfortable - as if during services we were all trying to think of something other than the unthinkable thing that had happened. And like I said, we did not live next door to the school; we were a few miles away. Yet, thousands of folks lived in that same radius and I'll bet many of them went through the same feelings.
And I suspect a lot of people who were with you in Arizona are having similar experiences now. And they'll have them for a while. And I hope they get through it as well and as quickly as they can.
Call if you get a moment.
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