President Obama spoke Sunday to a grieving nation following his visit with survivors of the Colorado theater massacre and family members of the 12 dead, promising that their strength and courage will long outlive the infamy of the shooter.
“The perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the past couple of days,” the president said in a speech at the University of Colorado Hospital. “What will be remembered are the good people impacted by this tragedy.”
The brief speech was both spiritual and presidential, with Obama quoting scripture, thanking doctors and first-responders, vowing the shooter would feel the “full force of the justice system” and calling for the country’s leaders to “do something about this senseless violence.”
The gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others during a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb.
Obama said that scripture states God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain.”
The president said he journeyed to Colorado and to the bedsides of the victims as a representative of the entire country “to let them know we are thinking of them every day” and as a father and husband.
“We can all understand what it would be like,” he said.
The president arrived at about 3:30 p.m. local time, then went to the hospital, just a few miles from the crime scene and where 23 of the victims were taken.
He was greeted by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, whom he personally thanked along with Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates.
Obama said that during his roughly two-hour hospital visit he shared “hugs, laughs and tears,” but mostly memories.
He told the story of two young women whom he met: Allie Young, a 19-year-old girl shot in the neck, and 21-year-old Stephanie Davis, who applied pressure to her friend’s spurting wound and called 911 amid the chaos, then helped carry her friend across two parking lots to an ambulance.
“Folks are going to be OK,” Obama said. “I don’t know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did or the courage that Allie had.”
The president’s speech was on the same night as a large community vigil at Aurora City Hall that Hickenlooper and Hogan attended.
The alleged shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday. Witnesses say he entered the theater, then exited and re-entered through a side door before tossing smoke bombs or canisters of tear gas and firing several weapons, including an AR-15 rifle with a magazine that reportedly held as many as 100 rounds.
The president did not mention Holmes’ name in his roughly five minutes of remarks.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a San Francisco fundraiser said Obama’s visit “was the right thing to do.”
The incident comes 12 years after a mass shooting at the Columbine High School on Colorado. Two seniors fatally shot 12 students and one teacher, injuring dozens of others.
Sunday's trip was Obama's second time to Colorado in less than a month to comfort residents in a state that's critical to the November election. He made a quick visit in late June to Colorado Springs, where hundreds of homes were destroyed in the most devastating wildfire in the state's history.
The trip to Colorado is the start of a scheduled three-day campaign trip that includes a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., fundraisers in California, Oregon and Washington state, and a speech to the National Urban League convention in New Orleans.
Romney is scheduled to address the VFW Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.