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. Tony in STL

    May God Bless those who've lost everything. Help out however you can. Most of us can do something. It's almost unbelievable that some americans are so uncaring about their fellow man. Kudos to President Obama! This guy has class, whether or not you like him! Common sense republicans are allowing their party to be destroyed in so many ways. It'll be over a 100 years before they get another chance at anything, at the rate they're going.

    May 21, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. 111Dave111

    Harry 101

    You must have missed the part where I said:

    * 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.

    (FYI – the "Democrats support other Americans in a disaster. Democrats are True Patriots.
    President Obama: Americans stand with Oklahoma for 'as long as it takes'."
    was direct at unreasonable people, who disagree.)

    May 21, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. ialsoagree

    "The American public is fickle and ignorant."


    Pot calling the kettle black much?

    You blame Obama for NJ not having funding, while being completely ignorant of the fact that it's congress – and congress alone – that has the power to pass spending bills. And it's the GOP, including both senators from OK, that apposed sending aid to NJ.

    That is the reason aid was delayed. To blame that on Obama is the equivalent of blaming mass shootings on you personally. Nevermind the fact that you had nothing to do with it at all, it's still your fault.

    May 21, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Robb

    111DAVE: What you are missing is to increase funding to FEMA would be catastrophic! Do you realize every time there is a big snow storm and a state declares a state of emergency they can apply for FEMA money and assistance? How and when would the Feds say "NO" and justify it?

    May 21, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Harry 101 wrote:

    111Dave111 – "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?
    Nope. The federal government paid for almost 80% of the cost of those Texas fires. Gov. Pery was simply whining because he had cut that portion of his budget. Plus, he wanted the federal government to pick up the full cost.

    May 21, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. Saboth

    What's interesting is that the two GOP congressmen from OK that voted against funds for Hurricane Sandy relief now have their hands out begging for help and money. the GOP is only fiscally conservative when they aren't the ones benefiting directly from the money. I see...

    May 21, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. Robb

    ialsoagree>>You are right and wrong...all appropriation bills with spending reside and begin in the House of Rep plain and simple. By the way, did you see the pork in the NJ disaster funding bills? Bet you didnt or you might not be so quick to judge...unless you dont care because your idea of spending is OK as long as you other people's money to use!

    May 21, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. scieng1

    Thank you, Mr. President, for setting aside political differences to help Americans in the face of disasters.

    May 21, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Michael

    I am in Oklahoma City. My area was passed by the tornados but it is so heart breaking to watch on TV. We need to be bipartisan in our efforts in times like this.

    May 21, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Nick

    And what he's not saying: "Thank God, something to take the media's attention for a couple days so I can re-group on all these scandals and squeeze 18 in".

    May 21, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Bob

    Hey President Obama, You better "get out in front of this situation" and call it "terrorism" before every friggin' conservative and his dog start attacking you...

    May 21, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. CC

    Obama: Americans stand with Oklahoma for 'as long as it takes'.. yeah right!!! the same way as New Jersey.. you fool me twice not this time... GO REPU

    May 21, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. dt

    Wait, Boehner is standing behind the President? He's recognizing leadership??? I was sure the GOP would lead us on this one. LOL! Or will they just sit and wait to cry foul at some minor issue?

    Can anyone imagine the catastrophe if Mitt Romney would have won? He'd be saying the same thing (ALL politicians promise help), but he would have already dismantled all the government infrastructure to actually do anything. Then they'd call in Haliburton to "make money and create jobs". You think FEMA is slow, wait until they charge disaster victims for blankets.

    May 21, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Larry L

    It's these scenarios when the need for a strong Federal government becomes obvious. The capabilities required to mount a multi-state disaster relief effort could never be managed at the state-level.

    May 21, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. WAKEUP48

    Maybe he should send FEMA in, they will help EVERYONE

    May 21, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. TheTruth

    I'm sure the president will support them every bit as much as he did the victims of Sandy – but I hope not: the day after the election most of the offices were closed and federal workers went back home.

    May 21, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. Polar Bear

    If a President says "we stand with Oklahoma," then he should be in Oklahoma standing with them, not in Washington DC. Seems hollow and insincere otherwise. Then again, I think OK is a red state, so that explains it. Always politics, little from the heart.

    May 21, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. TONY

    This President is the best thing that ever happen to America.

    May 21, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. Jerry

    OMG. So many Obama butt kissers on this blog (especially Dominicam mama 4 Obama). Instead of praising Obama for HIS lack of action; lets praise the folks in Oklahoma that are living through this nightmare and trying to fend off for themselves. Oklahomans are the REAL heroes in this tragedy!

    Just like the Sandy victim; chances are that if they depend on Obama and his minions coming to their rescue, they are going to be waiting for a long, long time. Most of us know Obama hardly keeps his promises and uses people (victims) as props to make Américans forget about HIS transgressions.

    América stay tuned... (PLEASE!)

    May 21, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. lIb

    Yeah Blame it on Obama. Gee you'd think after all this time the repubs would find someplace else to live.Are there other folks who are really and truly SICK of repubs??? This man is human and it is not any shock that he may overlook certain things especially when all eyes are on North Korea and other more important crisis like the economy. I wish the GOP would put as much time in their real jobs as they put into bashing the president. Thank God he is continuing to work

    May 21, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. 111Dave111

    Robb: Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. do NOT declare disasters for snowstorms. (and get less $$s from the Feds than we pay in taxes). dave from MI.

    May 21, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    These people lost everything. Their confederate flag, their American flag, their shotguns, their anti-Obama, anti Gay/Lesbian, anti Mexican, anti middle class, anti poor, anti seniors banners and stickers What a pity.

    May 21, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. kcc

    As a Oklahoman both of are senators made me sick after voting down aid for hurricane sandy affected states, don't lump all of us into one because of two senators!!! Congressmen do what they want when they are in office not always what the people they represent would like to see done.

    May 21, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. BillyBubba

    People That live in yearly event disaster states need to get out of them quit flushing our countries money on people that are not smart enough to live in a safe which is safe. lots of states to choose from.

    May 21, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Rancher Joe

    Oklahoma should immediately levy a surcharge on all meat and grain shipments to California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, etc. to help pay for the tornado damage.

    May 21, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
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