a week of mourning

LA Times: As President Obama and his aides prepared to memorialize the dead in Tucson, they were dealing with death close to home.

Two days after the Tucson mass shooting, Ashley Turton, the wife of Dan Turton, Obama’s liaison to the House of Representatives, died when her car struck a wall in their garage, igniting a flash fire.

A pall fell over the White House, already dark from the news in Arizona. Several members of Obama’s staff sought to help their colleague and the couple’s twin toddlers and year-old baby. Indispensable items on the schedule continued – two heads of state visited, and there were meetings and briefings – but the president remained mostly behind closed doors preparing for Wednesday’s memorial in Tucson. The week was set to end with a eulogy for late diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke.

“I think we’re all searching for meaning here,” said one senior administration official … Obama … had the job of trying to provide that meaning.

One of the major speeches of his presidency had suddenly been thrust upon him. He began his own search hours after he heard of the Tucson shootings. … One of the first people he reached out to after calling in his speechwriter was a young clergyman on his staff, Joshua DuBois.

…Obama moved between biblical teachings from the life of Job and verses of Psalm 46 in what amounted to a personal search for the appropriate message and merged his speechwriters with his spiritual counselors in an unusual collaboration.

It wasn’t the first time Obama has meditated on the life of Job, the biblical figure who loses his family, health and money. Like a tree that is cut down, the president told New Orleans residents on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, their city can sprout again.

…On Saturday and Sunday, he spent long stretches preparing for and then calling family members of those killed and injured in the shooting. He also talked to Mark E. Kelly at the bedside of Kelly’s wife, Giffords…

On Monday morning, the president’s interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, e-mailed West Wing staffers notifying them that Ashley Turton had died that morning … There was a brief break from work at the White House that morning when the staff spilled onto the frigid South Lawn, joining the president and Michelle Obama in a moment of silence to honor the Tucson shooting victims. Some said they also were thinking of the Turtons.

It was a moment to “connect in grief,” said one staffer, with one another and with the Obamas. Then they returned to their duties, focusing on the midweek memorial set for the University of Arizona sports arena. Expectations for the president were high … Would Obama be up to this moment?

The speechwriting started Monday. Obama summoned Cody Keenan, whose many written remarks for the president include his eulogy for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Keenan listened and wrote as the president dictated what he wanted to say.

….Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was struck by Obama’s unusual show of emotion. As he spoke of Christina-Taylor, his voice grew choked and hoarse for a moment. Throughout the speech, his face registered grief at some points, resolve at others, and, as he announced that Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time earlier that day, joy.

“He did exactly what the moment called for, in a way that was consistent with him as a cerebral president,” Kearns Goodwin said. “It was a completely authentic moment.”

Full article here

4 Responses to “a week of mourning”

  1. 1 Theo67
    January 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    What an especially tough week for them – but an excellent job supporting the nation and each other. I hope they got a chance to take a breath this weekend, before starting up the business of running the country (and the world) next week.

  2. January 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Twin toddlers and a new baby! I had seen that news but it didn’t really hit me, not like this. Thank goodness she didn’t have the kids with her. What a sad sad time for everyone.

  3. 3 Sue in Minnesota
    January 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    A very tough week……I hope that they especially find solace and comfort within their inner circle. Our President has had enormous challenges, relentlessly, his endurance and tenacity is the stuff of legends. As many here have suggested, I believe we are witness to greatness in the making.

    God Bless and keep you Mr. President, and may Americans wake up and demonstrate their respect,gratitude and support for all that you do and endure on their behalf.

  4. 4 Sonjia Duncan
    January 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Amazing, truly amazing so much for one man to bear. Thank God they have each other to love.

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