US & World

Obama to Moore, Oklahoma: You are not alone

President Obama tours the damage left behind by a tornado that struck parts of Oklahoma.
President Obama tours the damage left behind by a tornado that struck parts of Oklahoma.
CNN (via YouTube)

Update 5:10 p.m.: Obama to Moore, Okla.: You are not alone 

President Obama toured the devastation in Moore, Okla. Sunday afternoon, comforting some victims and pledging federal support. He said that he came to city as a representative of the American people.

"I'm just a messenger here," Obama said, "letting everybody know that you are not alone."

Obama spoke in front of the pile rubble that used to be Plaza Towers Elementary School.Seven students died there last week as an EF-5 tornado battered the area with winds in excess of 200 mph.

"We know Moore is going to come back stronger from this," Obama said, flanked by officials including Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin and Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis. "Your mayor said you're already printing new street signs and I want folks affected throughout Oklahoma to know that we're going to be with you every step of the way."

Obama also said he was moved earlier in the week by a news report that described a bible found in the rubble of an earlier tornado in Oklahoma. Obama said it was opened to one passage.

"'And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest,'" the president quoted. Then he added, "God has a plan, but we are an instrument of his will."

Update 7:22 a.m.: Obama to tour tornado-devastated Moore, Oklahoma

As tornado victims are laid to rest in Moore, Okla., President Barack Obama is visiting Sunday to survey damage from Monday's storm.

The White House said Obama wanted a firsthand look at recovery from the monstrous EF5 tornado that barreled through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday afternoon. The president planned to visit with affected families and thank first responders in devastated Moore, a town of 41,000 residents about 10 miles from Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Sunday her message to Obama is that she appreciates the visit, but the state also needs quick action from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Republican governor said so far, the agency has done a great job of speeding relief and cash assistance to affected families, but she's concerned about the long run.

"There's going to come a time when there's going to be a tremendous amount of need once we begin the debris clearing, which we already have, but really get it cleared off to where we need to start rebuilding these homes, rebuilding these businesses," she said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''And we know at different times in the past, money hasn't come always as quickly as it should."

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Obama offered prayers for residents from the White House in recent days and has promised to support the rebuilding for as long as it takes. "They have suffered mightily this week," Obama said Wednesday. "And while the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way."

Among the dead were 10 children, including two sisters pulled by the strong winds out of their mother's grasp, an infant who died along with his mother trying to ride out the storm in a convenience store and seven students at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Many students were pulled from the rubble after the school was destroyed.

Fallin noted that some 100 other schools in Oklahoma have safe rooms for children to seek shelter in tornados.

"Schools that have been lost in the past, many of them have rebuilt rooms of some sort as a safe room in their school, and we're certainly going to encourage that," she said.

"Any death is very unfortunate, but it's truly incredible that we had only 24 deaths at this site, because if you look at all the debris field and how wide it is, I don't know how anybody survived this tornado," she said on CBS.