January 12th, 2011
09:35 PM ET
3 years ago

Live blogging President Obama’s memorial address

A memorial service for the victims of the Arizona massacre at the University of Arizona at Tucson.

Read the full remarks here.

5:53 p.m. MT - The arena in Tucson, AZ is filling up. When the doctors arrive, the crowd claps and cheers. People are starting to take the seats behind the stage. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain receive cheers when their pictures flash on the scoreboard.

5:56 p.m. MT - The university has opened up the football stadium for the overflow crowd. People started lining up at about 6:30 a.m. to get into the event. Many people have brought children.

6:01 p.m. MT - President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have arrived at the memorial service at the University of Arizona at Tucson. They receive a standing ovation from the crowd.

6:10 p.m. MT - President Obama is sitting next to intern Daniel Hernandez, who is credited with saving Giffords' life. Rep. Giffords' husband, Mark E. Kelly, is seated next to Michelle Obama.

6:25 p.m. MT – University of Arizona officials say that the 14,000-seat arena is mostly filled and 13,000 people are in an overflow area in the football stadium.

6:25 p.m. MT - People attending the service told CNN earlier why they were there:

“I think it's important because the people in Tucson are close right now. It's a close community because we're all thinking in the same spirit, about these people, But more than that, I think it's going to be a closing for all these people who need some special words from the president. I think it's going to be very soothing for everyone - It's more like a healing for everyone that needs that.”

– Liz Orosco

"I walked into a Walgreens with my 9-year-old daughter and she saw the newspaper there and the shooter's photo was there and she said ‘Mom, that's really scary.’ And I said, ‘It is,’ and she said ‘Can we go to this event? Can we go see the president?’ and I said, ‘You know, I think that that's really something’ so I took all three of my daughters out of school because over the weekend they watched the events unfold and there were a lot of emotions in my house, and I guess realizing I could bring them to this and they could have a positive ending to a very upsetting weekend.”

– Robin Fox

6:28 p.m. MT – University of Arizona President Robert Shelton introduces Daniel Hernandez, who is a UA student. Hernandez receives a long standing ovation before speaking.

Hernandez says of the tragedy to the audience: “We all became Tucsonans; we all became Arizonans, we all became Americans.”

He also says, “I must humbly reject the term hero” and calls out those he considers heroes: Giffords, her aides who were killed or injured and the doctors who worked around the clock to help treat the victims. The audience gives the doctors a standing ovation.

He closes by saying, “I must reject the title ‘hero.’”

6:29 p.m. MT - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer takes the stage. "We will remember how to smile again," Brewer says. "We will go forward together."

6:36 p.m. MT - Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano reads from the book of Isaiah.

6:40 p.m. MT - Attorney General Eric Holder reads from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

6:45 p.m. MT – President Obama takes the stage: "I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow."

6:46 p.m. MT - Obama is trying to keep the tone somber and serious against the cheers from the crowd.

6:54 p.m. MT – Obama eulogizes the six victims of Saturday's shootings.

6:55 p.m. MT - President Obama says after he visited Rep. Giffords, she opened her eyes for the first time since arriving in the hospital. A teary-eyed Michelle Obama holds Mark Kelly's hand and then hugs him.

7:00 p.m. MT - President Obama expresses his gratitude for those that saved others- those who tackled the gunman, "wrestled away the killer's ammunition" and "worked wonders to heal those who'd been hurt."

7:05 p.m. MT – President Obama: "Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together."

7:11 p.m. MT - President Obama: "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle."

7:12 p.m. MT - President Obama: "And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, it did not, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation, in a way that would make them proud."

7:16 p.m. MT - The crowd rises to their feet when President Obama speaks of Christina Taylor Green, one of the victims. "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations," Obama says. She was nine years old, born on September 11, 2001.

7:21 p.m. MT - Those in the memorial service observe a moment of silence followed by a performance of Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts" performed by The Arizona Choir and the University of Arizona Symphony Orchestra.


Filed under: Arizona • Gabrielle Giffords • President Obama
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. indiana jim

    Watching on television it strikes me that when people, victims and speakers alike, are cheered it sounds strangely like a political rally.

    January 12, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  2. JJ

    God Bless The Victims and their families as well as the USA- the country I love dearly and hope all parties come together for the common good

    January 12, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Are you sure it's a memorial service? All i hear is screaming, yelling, cheering like it's a political event. I was expecting silence, calm, prayers – not cheering....How interesting...

    January 12, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  4. Shane

    Why the Rock Star entrance for Obama? Do the people of Arizona not realize that this is a memorial? Screaming and whistling? Have some class and respect. This isn't about President Obama visiting your town or university, it's about honoring the memory of those that are fallen.

    Respectful applaus is ok, but screaming and whistleing is unacceptable. Have some class.

    January 12, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  5. Joan Ungashick

    I turned on the TV this evening after work and was watching the live memorial speeches on Cnn and couldn't believe what I was hearing. People speaking readings of the Lord and the audiance cheering as if it ws a pep really. Wasn't this a memiorial???? All the cheering going on I thought it was a pep rally or something. I had to turn it off because it was not anything I would have expected during this time a tragedy. This was not a political convention.

    January 12, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  6. Judy Hernandez

    I tuned in to watch the Memorial Service this evening, and after but a few moments, I thought I had tuned into a college pep rally, instead of a service remembering those who have so recently lost their lives. The reaction of the people present, in my experience, is totally inappropriate to such an occasion as to be almost embarrassing.

    January 12, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  7. Galactica@33

    The President Obama just announced Gabby opened her eyes when he arrived in her room with her husband at her side!

    January 12, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  8. Ketielynn

    I started watching the memorial adress and am shocked that people in the audience are clapping, whistleing, hooping-and-hollering. It seems disrepectful to the people there to honor & grieve those victims. I swear it seems more like a Sate of the Union address response. Obama tried to respectfully quiet or end the applause when he came to the podium, his body language just seemed a bit surprised/perplexed by it. think he thought it was inapprpriate also..Maybe college kids excited to see him but anyone should have known better. It is a somber, affair a child & ordinary people were victims.Its not a political rally.

    January 12, 2011 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  9. vic nashville tn

    I am walking away from Obama I was wrong today he proved me again I am there for every American

    January 12, 2011 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  10. Maureen Crook

    We will always stand together as Americans in times of need. No room for politics. We are one. God Bless Tuscon and the USA.

    January 12, 2011 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  11. Randy Robinson

    I see a clear path here for the President to continue on in his second term. If the congresswoman pulls out of this she needs to be his running mate in 2012. This ticket would be unstoppable. A young energetic congresswoman who is in favor of gun rights and who also has the ability to rise above the racial challenges of her state. Who is also articulate and well liked amongst Republicans as well as Democrats. Married to a person in the space program. Let's not forget the fact that she has survived a gunshot to the head and lived to tell the tale. This union between Obama and Gifford is a match made in heaven. No one could question her character or strength as a leader. In 2016 (provided that she does well as vice president) she could be our first female president. This is a campaign I would hit the streets to get out the vote for.

    January 12, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. Shannon

    Amazing speech, I'm so proud of our President

    January 12, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  13. ProudUSCitizen

    Obama's speech tonight at the Tuscon memorial for the victims of the shooting is an embarrassment to this nation. He has turned a memorial to the individuals and families that were affected into a pep-rally. He's reading everything he is saying from a speech. Not one word is of his own thought, or out of his own heart-felt sadness for those poor people. I am embarrassed that this man is the president of my nation.

    January 12, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  14. Sees All Evil

    God Bless America!

    January 12, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  15. Edwin

    I feel very proud of the Island where I was born, so I am 100% Puerto Rican but I also feel very proud to be a citizen of this nation United States of America. GOD Bless Puerto Rico and the United States, Amen.

    January 12, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. marie md

    Great speech @ a time of such tragedy!!! We have the right man doing a great job.

    January 12, 2011 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  17. Ray in Oxfordshire

    That was a good speech from a good President..............................thank you Mr President.

    January 12, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  18. Socalmama48

    god bless america. Great Job Mr. President.

    January 12, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  19. Frank

    I've been around long enough luckily to hear speeches from JFK. and MLK Jr.. this certainly ranks with those in motivative and inspiring. Totally touching the heart of what makes America and Americans to rise above themselves as individuals and human beings.

    January 12, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  20. joez

    pure electric, no one talks to the conciousness of the country better than Obama

    January 12, 2011 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  21. CaliforniaChris

    God Bless The United States.

    January 12, 2011 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  22. Tayo

    What a speech by the president. My spirit is lifted!

    January 12, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  23. The ILL-DaDa™

    President Obama: "Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together."

    "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations," Obama said.

    I still believe
    I still hope
    I still love
    Join me.

    January 12, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  24. Nana

    The speech was remarkable and as usual classic 'obamalike' with no flurrs !

    January 12, 2011 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  25. Nicky

    There was nothing pep rally about this–this was a celebration to the lives of the victems and the heroes
    We will not let this act of TERROR hinder us from celebrating the lives of the victems. Anderson, please don't promote criticism at this memorial–how we treat one another is up to US. let's set an example for Christina and Celebrate Christina, the federal judge, Gabby and all the victems.

    January 12, 2011 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
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