'Could be our families': Obama speaks after private meeting with families of Orlando dead
"Four day ago this community was shaken by evil," Obama said in an address to the country after meeting with the families. "Today we are reminded of what is good, for the passion and the decency and most of all there is love. That is the Orlando we have seen in recent days and that is America."
He described meeting with the families and said that their grief is "beyond description."
"They talked about theirs sons and their daughters, in their 20s and 30s. One young woman was just 18 years old,"he said.
"These families could be our families. In fact they are our families they are part of the American family," Obama continued. "I told them on behalf on the American people our hearts are broken, too. We are here for you."
Obama praised the first responders who worked to rescue and save those in the nightclub.
"After the worst of humanity reared its head, the best of humanity came roaring back," he said.
The president said it's going to take more than the military to prevent lone-wolf terrorist attacks like the ones that have occurred most recently in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando.
“We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person who may wish to do harm,” Obama said. “But we can do something about the amount of damage they can do.”
He also asked for more gun control in the country, saying that the victims' families "don't care about politics, and neither do I."
"This debate needs to change," Obama added, pointing out that it had been stymied since the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.
The president also addressed that the attack took place on the LGBTQ community.
"It's a good time for us to reflect on how we treat each other," Obama said. "We have to end discrimination and violence against our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community."
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Amway Center where the president and vice president met for several hours with the families, and survivors of the shooting.
Prior to meeting with the families, the president and Vice President Joe Biden met with local law enforcement officials to thank them for their work in responding to the attack, which killed 49 people, and injured more than 50, when American-born Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire inside Pulse nightclub early Sunday.
Six people wounded in the attack are still in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
The president and vice president also met with the owners and staff of Pulse nightclub who were working when the attack occurred, and laid wreaths at the makeshift memorial at the nightclub in downtown Orlando. Two employees of the club were killed during the attack.
The medical examiner in Orlando said he didn’t believe the 49 people killed during the attack suffered because they didn’t move after being shot, according to the Associated Press.
Dr. Joshua Stephany described the scene at the club as surreal.
“It looked like time had stopped. Drinks looked like they had just been poured, checks looked like they were about to be paid, TVs were on in the background, food was half-eaten, and fans were swirling,” he said.
Coinciding with the president’s visit to Orlando were the first funerals, which were also held on Thursday, in the afternoon.
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo and Eric Ortiz-Rivera will be the first two mass shooting victims from the gay nightclub to be laid to rest.
Ocasio-Capo, 20, was a passionate dancer, according to remembrances left for him online.
“May the only time you rest be after you and Kika make some kick ass choreo up in paradise,” Tamandra Diaz wrote on Facebook.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Ortiz-Rivera, 36, was the man everyone in his family came to for design advice, his cousin, Orlando Gonzalez, told The New York Times.
“He was very artistic,” Gonzalez said. “He was all about interior design,” but was also a bit of a “goofball,” his cousin remembered.
The paper reported that Ortiz-Rivera lived in downtown Orlando with his husband. They had married just a year ago.
CIA Director John Brennan said the agency had found no connection between the gunman and any foreign terrorist organizations.