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. 111Dave111

    Democrats support other Americans in a disaster. Democrats are True Patriots.

    President Obama: Americans stand with Oklahoma for 'as long as it takes'. "Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them," Obama said. "Because we're a nation that stands with Americans in trouble."

    Oklahoma Senators Repeatedly Opposed Disaster Relief Funds. In Oklahoma following the catastrophic tornadoes that ripped through the state, it appeared increasingly likely that residents who lost homes and businesses would turn to the federal government for emergency disaster aid. That could put the state's two Republican senators in an awkward position. Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, are fiscal hawks who have repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country. They also have opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.

    May 21, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. GI Joe

    I think when they have to cut something to provide funding, the first thing to cut should be CONGRESSIONAL RETIREMENT PACKAGES - not Soc. Sec. and Vets. benefits.

    May 21, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Lance
    You're welcome and we're with you...all the way.

    May 21, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. al

    It never ceases to amaze me that so many conservatives feel the need to come here and direct more hatred toward the president, hatred for any response he gives, and continue to show their utter disdain for the tragic events and what has happened to Americans.

    May 21, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. NYKnows

    To the guy trying to find a good thing to say about W and Katrina – don't. The 'third fastest" response is a complete joke. Poor people were left to die who should NOT have died due to incompetence at FEMA. I know aid workers in Houston who could not believe the poor condition of people bused in from New Orleans days after the storm – no sign of FEMA help AT ALL. It was actually private enterprise that stepped up at the Astrodome to get phone lines, computers and software up and running to help the refugees, who arrived with nothing, starving, dehydrated, no diapers for the kids, APPALLING. How about the ice that FEMA bought for tens of thousands, then left it to melt because they could not figure out how to get it to New Orleans? The empty trailers because they had no way to assign them? Somebody made money on that suffering, but the suffering go no relief. GIve us a break, stop trying to defend W, there is no way.

    May 21, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. Cephus

    Disaster of this magnitude deserves better than petty politics! Jeez there are more morons in this forum than any where else in the world. Some families have lost their beloved children for once please refrain from this far right/ left crap.

    May 21, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC


    First of all for the W basher–the fed govt cannot help/go into a state, until being asked–the dem controlled state of LA and the dem controlled city of NO fought among themselves and this delayed help from W–when it was requested, the response was the third fastest in the history of Fema
    Nope. That's a historical rewrite if I've ever seen one. The federal government was waiting to hear from the state of LA. The governer of LA was waiting to hear from the mayor of New Orleans. The mayor of New Orleans, along with the entire city, was out of communication with the outside world. No one took the initiative to pick up the phone to call the people they were waiting on to ask, "Are you okay?".

    All of confusion and lack of initiative from the top resulted in Katrina being one of the slowest FEMA responses on record.

    May 21, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. 111Dave111

    I extend my thanks and appreciation to Speaker Boehner for committing to join with our president, as a fellow American, to help our fellow Americans in Oklahoma.

    May 21, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. Dave

    Fake president. Don't be fooled.

    May 21, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. PeterD

    Why in the world Lessons Learned from Tuscaloosa and Joplin which happend just two years in row under Obama's administration watch are never implemented in every school in Tornado Alley States?

    May 21, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  11. HeyHey

    Obama immediately orders his secret police to audit everyone in the town and have the democrats moved to the front of the aid line.

    May 21, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  12. BililyBob

    Just to follow up my first post-About Americans helping Americans


    American Legion allocates $1 million for Oklahoma tornado victims
    WASHINGTON (May 21, 2013) – The American Legion announced that it is allocating $1 million to veterans affected by the tornadoes in Oklahoma. The money will be used to cover relocation expenses for veterans and their families whose homes were devastated by the disaster.
    The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, has previously assisted emergency efforts following Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

    May 21, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. sly

    America: It is our great nation, and true Americans support their nation.

    America: Love it or leave it.

    There are many blogging here who would be happier somewhere else, say Saudi Arabia?

    Thank you President Obama for standing by true Americans.

    May 21, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    As a New Yorker, I don't actually advocate for any of those positions, I think that we should aid these states to the fullest extent necessary for their recovery. But the hypocracy is not lost on me. Many of these states voted against sending any federal aid to New York
    There is nothing wrong with pointing out the hypocrisy of this situation in regards to the Se. Inhofe and his cohort, and the irnoy in the fact that the shoe is now on the other foot. and the reason why there is nothing wrong with pointing that out, besides that it is a FACT, is that we WILL RUSH to help him and the state of Oklahoma. WE WILL NOT tie up the aid that his state so desperately needs in despicable and inhuman acts of partisanship like he and his fellow Senator did.
    Therein lies the difference.
    It is not taking potshots to point out the Senator's voting record as it pertains to aiding another state other than his own. It is not gratuitous or out of place. It is a lesson in humanity to him and others like him on this thread that would screw their fellow Americans because of their partisan politics.

    May 21, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. Harry 101


    Democrats support other Americans in a disaster. Democrats are True Patriots.
    Wow so the fires last year in texas that the Fed chose not to support those were not americans? Everyone no matter the party support and hope and in some cases pray for the people effected by this disaster. To say only one type of party does is very worst kind of profiling and bigoty. Funny you don't see it that way but not a surprise. But I treat that as an individual personnal issue that you suffer from.

    May 21, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  16. Steve

    The American public is fickle and ignorant. Remember during Hurricane Sandy when Obama during the election said, he would PERSONALLY get thru the red tape and make things happen. Even NOW....NOW 6 months later people STILL don't have electricity. Where is Obama? Hes busy ambulance chasing getting his face on the news...while in the background he does nothing.

    May 21, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    GI Joe

    I think when they have to cut something to provide funding, the first thing to cut should be CONGRESSIONAL RETIREMENT PACKAGES – not Soc. Sec. and Vets. benefits
    Hear! Hear!!

    May 21, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. the dude

    Yeah- as long as it takes... or until the house GOP cuts the Fema budget again.

    May 21, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  19. Jules

    Of course there should be disaster relief for Moore, OK, just as there was for Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast even though the Senators of OK both voted against relief for that area. The people of that area should be thanking President Obama and those two senators should be eating humble pie. They try to explain their vote saying their was pork in it for the Virgin Islands. We all know that Hurricane Sandy jumped over those islands and all those people and their belongings were save. It is fools who cannot see the world beyond their own front door.

    May 21, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Ferathka

    Once again Obama proving he will support all Americans. Hopefully the Republicans will start to do the same.

    May 21, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. Kassa


    When a group of people have seething hate for a person regardless of who that person might be, they will say anything in oder to criticize that person on anything that person says or does.

    May 21, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. Jules

    Dear Harry, The Texas Governor, Rick Perry, did not request help or aid for the fires. Take it up with him.

    May 21, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. DAZZY

    Why don't we stand with Chicago, or LA, or Detroit, where this many people are killed every 72 hours?

    Things happen. These people are no more important and it is no more sad than any other death on the planet. Seriously enough already.

    May 21, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    My President is outstanding!
    Compassionate, focused, proactive and President to ALL Americans in and out of their time of need.
    God bless Oklahoma and the rest of the United States of America.

    May 21, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  25. Danita

    Obama always supports. Too bad he will not cut the welfare.... At the end of the day Obama is the spokesperson for the White House for all of you who thinks bama is doing this out of the heart. Anyway get sick of hearing about the gov. who spending our tax dollar and people think this man is writing a personal check. People don't understand a lot of poor will not get much help from this man. Lots of them don't own their homes. Far as the people bused from New Orleans the gov. has to get approval from neighboring states... Texas took the most.

    May 21, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11