U.S. President Barack Obama toured tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, Sunday, where 142 people were killed and another 40 are still missing. The president offered a message of consolation and hope at a memorial service for those who lost their lives.
People climbed down from atop piles of splintered furniture, broken cars, and remnants of houses to shake hands with the U.S. president. Mr. Obama offered words of consolation and encouragement as he toured the wreckage of this Midwestern town.
It was one week ago in Joplin, Missouri, that a tornado with winds topping 300 kilometers an hour flattened homes and devastated lives.
Later Sunday, upon taking the stage at a memorial service for those who died in Joplin, the president was greeted with rousing applause, and even a proclamation of love from someone in the audience.
The nation's mourner-in-chief responded in kind, saying, "I love Joplin. I love Joplin."
A motorcade carrying President Obama passes through a devastated Joplin, Mo., neighborhood Sunday, May 29, 2011.
Mr. Obama told the audience that once the shock from the deadly tornado wears off, residents will likely feel alone. He vowed that would not be the case. "There is no doubt in my mind that Joplin will rebuild. And as president, I can promise you, your country will be there with you every single step of the way. We will be with you every step of the way. We're not going anywhere. The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored and this community is back on its feet. We're not going anywhere," he said.
The stirring words brought all the members of the white-robed choir behind the president's podium to their feet.
Mr. Obama also reflected on those who died while saving others, and he urged survivors to live with the same level of compassion.
President Obama arrived in Joplin Sunday after wrapping a six-day tour of Europe. He said world leaders had spoken of their concern for the people who had suffered though the deadliest tornado to hit the United States in more than 60 years.