Former chief official White House photographer Pete Souza, author of “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” describes what it was like to photograph President Obama immediately following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Pete Souza: My name is Pete Souza, I was the chief official photographer for President Obama.
To set the scene a little bit, it was about a month since he had been reelected to a second term, so there was that sort of afterglow that was still being felt, I think, throughout the White House. It was also Christmastime at the White House, so there were these decorations and Christmas trees, a very festive time of the year.
And word began to come out that there had been the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and finally his Homeland Security adviser, John Brennan, came up to the Oval Office. He had gathered all the facts, had talked to the FBI, and told the president that indeed 26 people had been shot, including 20 first-grade kids.
In the picture, you see just kind of the energy just zap out of the president. I think he was thinking of this not only as a president, but imagining what it must be like as a parent. The horror of sending your 6-year-old kid off to school, you put him on the school bus, and you never see them again because some crazy guy shot them to death, point-blank, at their school.
So I think it was a very … he was very emotional and just thinking about this as a fellow parent, almost more so than as a president.
Not long thereafter he had to go make a statement in the White House press briefing room and it was difficult for him to maintain his emotions as he talked about this. And I think that was probably when he cried for the first time.
President Obama (12/14/12): They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfil their dreams.
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