Obama, Biden Visit With Victims Of Orlando Mass Shooting

Jun 16, 2016
Originally published on June 16, 2016 6:46 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Let's turn now to NPR's John Burnett who is in Orlando. John's been speaking with people there today about what the president's visit means and the message they hope he leaves them with. Hi there, John.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So where did you spend most of your time today?

BURNETT: Well, I was down here on Orange Avenue which is right near the Pulse Nightclub which is quite a scene of mourners and of curious - and still it's a big police line with lots of big investigators, police trucks surrounding the building. And it's kind of ground zero.

MCEVERS: And so what were, you know, people's reactions to the visit by the president and the vice president coming to console them now in this time of grief?

BURNETT: Well, that's the word consolation. They really, really appreciated that the administration - that the president and vice president, you know, came to show their condolences. I mean, this is a city that's in agony. It's in shock. It's mourning. They - and it's still incredulous that these things could have happened in this normally, you know, peaceful place.

And so I talked to - I want to talk about three people who I visited with. The first one - I think we have some tape from her. It's Denise Kirsop. She's a mental health counselor. She was in her mom's bike shop, the Ragin Cajun Bike Shop, and here's what she said.

DENISE KIRSOP: We're under pressure, are in crisis. We're a city of love. And we want to heal from this, and we want everybody to continue to participate and heal. And we appreciate him coming here and making his presence known and not just with this event but Christina Grimmie and the little child being attacked by alligators recently. And - just has been a few days of a lot of tragedy. But we'll survive, and we'll help each other survive.

BURNETT: And that's the thing. It's not - obviously this horrific killing is what's going to, you know, be in the history books, but then you have the killing of this - the shooting of this singer and then more recently the terrible drowning of this boy by the alligator. And so Orlando is just reeling from these events. And so - they so appreciated the president coming.

Katie Dane (ph), a data manager I spoke to in the 7-Eleven parking lot right there in the intersection, she was one of those who stood in line for hours to give blood. And she hoped that - really that some of the people the president talked to gave him a policy message that she said after San Bernardino and Sandy Hook, I still don't understand why Congress hasn't put something in place in terms of gun control. We really want this to be the message from our city. So that was Katie Dane.

MCEVERS: What about other people? I mean, were they talking about policy, too? Was there a sense that there will be any kind of change after this?

BURNETT: Oh, I don't know. I mean, you know, they're still sort of in such an emotional place. They just - they needed this morale boost as - there was a painter I talked to, German Lemus. He had his canvas set up right there in the sidewalk, and he was painting this - the scene in front of the club. And he said we just - we need the president to help us to start to heal, to stabilize this community because we've gone through such a trauma. And so we appreciate so much that he - you know, the busiest man in the world took time out to come see us and give his condolences.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's John Burnett in Orlando on the visit of President Obama and Vice President Biden. Thanks so much, John.

BURNETT: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.