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. Jamy

    This is a TRAGEDY OF MASSIVE proportions just like Superstorm Sandy, no matter what the president says, it's wrong... if he helps these people, oh he is spending too much money, if he doesn't address it, oh he doesn't care. Honestly, I've never seen such witch hunt towards a president than I've seen with President Obama. He is not perfect, but the government he was handed, continues to block everything. So far on these tragedies he has shown leadership and addressed them immediately. It's about the people there and everyone that needs help!!! God Bless them...

    May 21, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. FLIndependent

    For all those on here saying the President loves this because it takes focus off the scandals I feel very sorry for you folks. You live in hate. You or a loved one could be the next victim of a tragedy whether it be by Mother Nature, or a crazed gunman, or home-grown terrorist and many of these haters would also be the first to count on your federal government if aid is needed. Give up the hate and maybe, just maybe, our country will be able to move forward into the 21st Century.

    May 21, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. sly

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

    Remember that article yesterday showing that the haters all belong in the Red States?

    Wow, no wonder the party of 22% is such a loser – they actually cheer American deaths.

    Sad, but ALL true Americans stand by our fallen citizens, and ALL true Americans support our great President.

    America: Love it or LEAVE IT!

    May 21, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. jnpa

    @Jamy – I completely agree. No matter what he does in the eyes of repubs he is wrong. That just goes to show how right Obama has been all along.

    May 21, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. FLIndependent

    @JFS – What a horrible tragedy. Also, if you don't think a President would use this to take the focus off of other scandals, you can just put your naive head right back down into the sand.
    And if the President didn't address the tragedy you would complain about that too. Honestly, no matter what he does or says there is no winning with you haters and you know it so just admit it. BTW, these so-called "scandals" are only important to the same people that think like you as most of us are more concerned about solving the problems this country faces, ie saving Social Security/Medicare, education, immigration, infrastructure etc.

    May 21, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. USA

    Its disgusting that the Liberals will bring politics in this. But Im not suprised.

    May 21, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. gb333

    I know that down South people rarely have basements, I believe it is because of the high humidity. But it seems to be that you can put in some ventilation that would keep the humidity at least on par with the upper floors.

    Personally, I would lobby for new construction to always include a basement that is deep enough and strong enough to with stand a tornado. Or at the very least a small safe room. Big enough for a few cots and a tv so people can hang out there during really bad storms. It wouldn't cost that much.

    But my prayers are to the people of Ok, I hope the get the federal aid they need.

    May 21, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. UDidntBuildThat

    U need to stand behind somebody with all these scandals Obama. Since Bush caused Katrina did Obama caused this tornado and Superstorm Sandy? You would think with Mr EPA Obama, the oceans will stop warming and air would be quite and all is one with climate change.

    May 21, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  9. Uh-Clem

    The Republicans in general and Tea Party in particular take every opportunity to block, obfuscate, and whine about everything. They've been doing it so long now that they have lost sight of what America stands for. It doesn't help the situation by being on the wrong side of progress for over a hundred years now. When history looks back on these days of Obama's presidency, it will not be kind just as it hasn't been kind to Joseph McCarthy. When will the chain be broken? Hopefully we won't have to wait until next fall and the 2 year cycle of elections once again falls upon us.

    May 21, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "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."

    And violate federal laws? Yeah, that'll go over swimmingly.

    May 21, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. Jerry

    WE the people, stand with Oaklahoma. The president himself is a joke.

    May 21, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. TONY

    @ rancher joe
    What the people in these states let your meats, and grains rot and not pay an extra penny. I am from nyc and i will become vegan before i buy your meats.

    May 21, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. TONY

    i mean what about corrections sorry

    May 21, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  14. Carla

    To Linda Operle and all the others spewing your words of hate toward Oklahoma. I live here and have seen the devastation and have friends affected, so I have the right to speak on this subject. We have survived a lot of heartache, man made and natural disasters. We are a very proud and kind people. We help each other, give the shirt of our backs. Help here has actually been turned away because we have so many volunteers willing to do whatever it takes to help our people. Business have rallied together and give freely. Cheaspeake has donated $1M, Devon has donated $2.5M, Kevin Durant of our beloved Thunder has donated $1M, as well as all of our Thunder boy. We do not wait on Federal assistance to take care of us, but we do appreciate help. We have not asked for outside help, but very kind people have extended their hands anyway, and we are very thankful. This is not for political debate. Not the time people, not the time. We have kids still unaccounted for. They are buried underneath debris and cars. Shame on all of you who are so empty and cowardly that you make this about your political opinion. The victims are not republicans, they are not democrats. They are people not labeled by how the registered to vote. We love each other and offer help no matter.

    May 21, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Pres

    Tea Party is telling NO to Obama aid to Oklahoma.

    May 21, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    BAN twisters!

    May 21, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Tuza Baap

    Where are the leaders of the anti-government Tea Baggers? The supporters of these baggers are the most recepients of government funds. These are the states are on welfare who get $1.50 from feds on every $1 they spend. Only the blue states are the ones who get their $0.75 per $1. So, in reality the majority of the blue states support the red states who are tea baggers (or beggars?). But, they have nerve to bash government. It is only Federal Government who can give relief to such disasters.Hypocrites!

    May 21, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. fuzzback

    Times like this make you appreciate a healthy dose of socialism. I'll bet this experience results in more than a few former Republicans.

    May 21, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. Wilson

    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.
    Actually Lincoln saw to the impossibility of that, with his taking away of states rights and centralizing the government.

    May 21, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    gb333 wrote:

    I know that down South people rarely have basements, I believe it is because of the high humidity. But it seems to be that you can put in some ventilation that would keep the humidity at least on par with the upper floors.
    Have you ever even been in a cellar before? They tend to be thermally more stable than portions of a house that are above ground. That means they tend to be cooler in summer, and warmer in winter. It's the main reason why people create wine cellars.

    May 21, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  21. Michael from Ventura

    I read some of these comments and think- My God, how can anyone hate the President so much that they use death as a weapon against him. I left the gop YEARS ago, and slowly but surely, most of my family have followed. I do not understand how anyone with a brain or a heart could vote or support republicans in this day and age. Thank you Mr. President, for your swift and compassionate actions-– and the haters.............well, you can guess.

    May 21, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. mary

    This is the difference between living in America the country we have always been proud of.. WE are there to help those who face disasters like this..
    The GOP want funding cut and have been on a "stingy" agenda that has gotten worse and worse as the money has risen to the top 1%. They don't want to anger their rich benefactors by acting like Americans.
    We don't let our people suffer and we don't let our towns turn to rubble.. Its not how America has existed .But it is the future if we let the GOP run things..
    Anyone that doesn't feel compassion and a desire to offer help..
    You need to sit for one second and remember... There is nothing keeping disaster from hitting you or your town..
    WE all live with the risk and the one thing we might need some day is compassion and help..
    So un harden your hearts.. And wake up.

    May 21, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. ShamL

    "We will stand with you as long as it takes [to, as we have done in the past, use a natural disaster to deflect attention away from these messy little controversies that we are facing]."

    May 21, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  24. Patricia Shelton

    Disasters by definition need people to reach out and give a hand up – BUT – the federal Oklahoma contingent that voted against funds to Super Storm Sandy cannot be asking for federal funds now. AND if they are asking some will be asking for offsetting cuts – they always sweep into Medicare and Social Security for cuts so I say with offsetting cuts there should not be federal funds to Oklahoma.
    To those of you that are belatedly coming to fiscal responsibility – did you send requests to Congress and President George W. Bush when they took the national debt from 4 trillion to 12 trillion? I did – I am not a 'Johnny come lately' to being smart in spending but for 8 years Bush, and 6 of those years were with Republicans in control of Congress, and they spent stupid (and no it is not the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan/or the need to 9/11).

    May 21, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Chuck

    Haven't heard anything from Senators Coburn and Inhofe yet......based on principle, will they vote "NO" on a bill that will provide assistance to the Oklahoma just like they voted "NO" on the funding for New Jersey's Hurricane Sandy.

    Still waiting for an appearance from both of them re: the OK Tornado.

    May 21, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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