May 21st, 2013
07:38 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama: Americans stand with Oklahoma for 'as long as it takes'

Washington (CNN) - Describing the tornado that swept across the Oklahoma plains as "one of the most destructive storms in history," President Barack Obama said Tuesday the state "needs to get everything it needs right away" to recover from the devastating twister.

The president, speaking from the State Dining Room at the White House, said he doesn't yet know the "full extent" of the damage or the "human and economic losses that may have occurred."

Dozens of people - including several children - were killed when the massive tornado struck an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, officials said.

At least seven of the children killed were at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, according to a police official.

While the total magnitude of the storm's damage is unknown, the president pledged the country's resources as the community seeks to rebuild.

"The people of Moore, [Oklahoma] should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes," he said. "There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms and in time we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community."

Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma late Monday night, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. The declaration makes federal funding available to the counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie.

Funds can go towards grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs, the White House said. State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations can also use some of the money in those counties.

"For all those who've been affected, we recognize that you face a long road ahead. In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed. But you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel it with you fueled by our faith in the almighty and our faith in one another. So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today," he said. "And we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes."

Obama is receiving ongoing briefings about the recovery efforts from Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and other senior members, according to the White House.

Obama told Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin Monday the resources of the federal government stand ready to assist her state as it recovers from the powerful set of storms that pounded an area near Oklahoma City Monday.

House Speaker John Boehner faced questions in a press conference Tuesday over how Congress will respond in support of federal aid efforts, given some in the GOP's resistance to robustly backing previous relief legislation without cutting spending elsewhere.

"We'll work with the administration on making sure they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma," said an emotional House Speaker John Boehner.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed an incident team to the state, Obama told Fallin, and more federal resources are on standby as the extent of the damage becomes clearer.

Filed under: Oklahoma • President Obama
soundoff (253 Responses)
  1. Larry L


    Notice what is different here than in New Orleans?
    What you're saying is people here aren't mostly African American – that is of course your point. They also aren't hopelessly mired in a cycle of poverty. As vast as the damage appears, the percentage of Oklahoma City destroyed by the tornadoes is far less than that of Katrina and the response capability of the area is much greater.

    May 21, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. OMG grow up seriously

    One could learn a lot if one was to listen. These are HUMANS, and beloved critters, they are not white, black, grey, male or female , or right/left, etc. These are AMERICANS, our thoughts and tears are with all of them all, the whole situation is just horrible, in any state this would happen.

    Sadly some just have to argue their point or need attention, if you were to be more proactive, than negative, then maybe you would have some self-worth and be able to have some compassion.

    My family gave donations to Sandy, and will do the same for OK., and we are not high on the hog, but as AMERICANS we cannot help but feel the pain, and tears these folks have, and will continue to go thru!

    HINT: Have a heart, you are doing nothing but showing your true colors, how about showing some RED WHITE AND BLUE the American Colors!

    US ARMY VET wife/Mother/and AMERICAN

    May 21, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. SilentBoy741

    Obama: "We all stand with Oklahoma."

    FEMA: "Wait, there was a tornado?"

    May 21, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  4. dt

    I cannot help but wonder what storm like this would do to an above ground oil Keystone.
    nothing survives a direct hit from a 300mph ef-5 tornado.

    Actually a pipeline full of oil and with a low profile would likely weather a strong tornado. Cars, trucks, brick and mortar buildings are blown around really easily, but a pipeline would be very strong.


    Until a 10,000 pound tree hits it going 50 mph. People with only their own interests in mind can rarely see more than a few inches in front of their face. The disaster would be someone elses problem right? In fact, you would probably ridicule Obama when he tried to clean up the inevitable oil spill. Ask the people in the Gulf about it.

    May 21, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  5. Oy

    What, exactly, does President Obama have to do with INSURANCE COMPANIES?
    You expect him to control them?
    Give me break!

    "Never let a tragedy go to waist! "

    You know what makes me sick, Bob? When people can't spell a simple word like "waste".

    May 21, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. KC

    Arsh need prayer

    May 21, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  7. Delos

    Come on you build a house in flood zone and it everyone else fault that you got flooded out go figure, you move your family into harricane alley your house get blown away and it's everyone elses responciability to build it back up go figure .
    What i'm trying to say people take some responciability for these stupid life choices.
    You really can't make this stuff up, only in America

    May 21, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. simplefaith

    The only Republican I want to win office is Chris Christi. He gets as much abuse as the President, but he still stands tough. There should be no controversy from Republicans about helping the people in Oklahoma. There should be no politics here. It is the Right thing to do. Republicans would blame President Obama for the tornado if they could. If Repubicans could spend as much time passing bills that would help the American people than they do trying to find cause to oust ;President Obama from his seat, America would be a very prosperous country filled with compassionate people.

    May 21, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. ll

    Ironic that Oklahoma's senators voted against emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy...but when it comes to their own state, their hands are out and wide open.

    May 21, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Mark B. wrote:

    Larry L. – don't be so naive. When those bills come to a vote they are loaded with nonsense that has nothing to do with relief efforts. Government should get out of the way and let businesses and dare I say it , churches and religious outreach programs like Samaritan's Purse help folks. Don't just repeat the talking points you get for the White House, look a little deeper.
    You are woefully misinformed. Money is needed for than rebuilding homes and businesses.

    Pork? Over 100,000 utility poles were damaged or destroyed in the NYC tri-state area. Who pays for that?
    Pork? A commuter rail line had several miles of track washed away in several locations. Who pays for that?
    Pork? Several water treatment and water processing plants were damaged. Who pays for that?
    Pork? The subway station at ground zero was flooded and all but destroyed. Who pays for that?
    Pork? A major tunnel under the Hudson River was totally flooded out, to its' roof. Who pays for that?
    Pork? Federal, state, country, and local government buildings were damaged or destroyed. Who pays for that?

    Practice what you preach. Don't repeat talkilng points from right wing media. They confabulate too much.

    May 21, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. Larry L

    @Mark B.

    Larry L. – don't be so naive. When those bills come to a vote they are loaded with nonsense that has nothing to do with relief efforts. Government should get out of the way and let businesses and dare I say it , churches and religious outreach programs like Samaritan's Purse help folks.
    Bills that are loaded with pork are loaded by Congressmen – not the President.

    Having directly participated in many disaster relief efforts I'm hardly naive. I've seen churches and NGOs in the way as the dead were stacked like cord-wood. Businesses, churches and NGOs can do their part – but lack the training, equipment, security, and planning capabilities to coordinate efforts. FEMA was moving trucks, generators, and support personnel out of Central Texas towards Oklahoma BEFORE the tornadoes. Federal Soldiers are trained and equipped to respond to these events – also armed to maintain order and prevent looting. FEMA and the military can place hospitals and surgical vans on the ground rapidly. They can erect virtual cities for refugees and support personnel. Most importantly, than can do these thing in a planned and coordinated fashion. You "free market" solution is just a sound bite from right-wing media.

    May 21, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. JS

    Will Obama or Joe head to Oklahoma? Seems to be a lot of talk and no action? something as devasting as this usually prompts at least a executive precense?

    May 21, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Hamburger Jones

    "It appears the Republicans on this blog are cheering this disaster, much like they cheered the hurricane Sandy."

    They are FOX Believers, who genuinely believe our government has fallen, democracy is over, elections are suspended, and A.C.O.R.N. and the U.N. are huge standing armies at our door. They genuinely believe this, and they are cheering the death of fellow Americans because they hope to use them against "the dictator." I feel sorry for them myself.

    May 21, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Larry L


    Will Obama or Joe head to Oklahoma? Seems to be a lot of talk and no action? something as devasting as this usually prompts at least a executive precense?
    In disaster relief scenario VIP visits to "show support" are often more of a bother than a benefit. Sadly, in today's political environment a visit by the President will be considered "politicking" and failure to visit described as "lack of leadership". He will give support to the people of Oklahoma – and do so with maturity, wisdom, and compassion. The Fox News drones will drone on... either way.

    May 21, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Hamburger Jones

    " Republicans would blame President Obama for the tornado if they could." Where I live, the yahoos are saying that Obama and Bill Gates used contrails to bring the tornadoes so they could take away our guns. Also they are amazed that, like other presidents, he had someone hold an umbrella for him as he spoke. A white man, forced to hold an umbrella for a black! They are boiling mad about UmbrellaGate and are demanding his arrest and execution.

    May 21, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. Hamburger Jones

    "Don't just repeat the talking points you get for the White House," he says, and then repeats a bunch of talking points he got from the Anti-White House. FAIL. PRO TIP: don't rely on a van full of church ladies to stop your bleeding or dig you out from under a collapsed house. This is a civilized country, and we can handle disasters, so you don't need to go all dramatic and pitiful and pretend you have to cower in the wreckage and wait for some Sunday School class to save you. You Obama-haters and your fantasies are hilarious!!

    May 21, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. The REAL Truth...

    @fedupwithpolitics – Now Myself and many others are suing our insurance companies while our houses and community lies boarded up and ruined. Obama did nothing for us.
    What EXACTLY would you have had the POTUS do for you? He's not God tho' most RW nuts treat him like he should be all knowing and be involved in fixing (or getting the blame for not fixing) anything their tiny little minds can imagine.
    Appropriations bills – like hurricane Sandy relief are initiate by the GOP controlled House, who are well funded by the insurance lobby. While I feel for your predicament, heaping misplaced blame on the POTUS is not going to fix anything any faster.

    May 21, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. Dan5404

    I have never seen such sadistic hatred of a president in 55 years of closely watching politics. It started before he was even elected the first time. In another post, I asked if we, for a couple of minutes, could lose the vitriol and ridiculous political partisanship that has absolutely nothing to do with the families and victims, and donate to the Red Cross. I did. The right-wingers are so full of hate, they ridicule any effort to help people, even in a Red State. That's fine. If they don't have any concern for fellow Americans, they can at least keep their mouths shut when relief efforts are underway. Those people in Oklahoma don't give a crap what anyone thinks about politics now. I gave to people that are Americans in need. I don't care what their political interest are.

    May 21, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. Nick

    So I guess Senators Inhofe and Coburn will be in favour of this, unlike Hurricane Sandy victims....

    May 21, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Ambassador Chris Stevens... "MY" friend... "I" have your back. "I" will fight for you.
    TRUST "ME"


    But... but... "I" have an election going on..........
    "I" am going to SIN CITY to get some campaign cash.

    "I" will leave a voice mail for Hillary.

    May 21, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. Jackie

    Obama quickly steps up to help the Oklahoma victims while Oklahoma Senators Coburn/Inhofe step back and tell their citizens look to charity and the President for help. The lawmakers feel not raising the debt ceiling is more important then helping tax payers with their own money. But the same lawmakers rushed to raise the debt ceiling to fix the flight delays for corporations.

    May 21, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  22. sal

    'as long as it takes'
    for folks to forget that I'm the most corrupt president in the history of presidents.

    May 21, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  23. Deborah Alfano

    Really? He did not stand with the Ambassador and staff and he let the FBI and the IRS bully people who had opposing views from his.

    May 21, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  24. Helen Troy

    Obama has become a cheerleader like gentlemen Joe of Syracuse University legacy..

    May 21, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  25. eviltaxpayer

    Sure obama, pass out some food stamps and put them all on welfare, THATS how YOU help.

    May 21, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
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