In the aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., there have been stories of bravery and compassionate leadership as a small American community deals with crippling grief. In the days since the shooting, an emphasis has rightly been placed on how Newtown needs to heal, a process that led to a trip to Connecticut by President Barack Obama, who spoke at a memorial service in the town on Sunday.
The memorial service took place in the auditorium at Newtown High School, with various locations in the school used as prep areas for the press and speakers. Knowing that he would be on-site, one Newtown High teacher and the school's head football coach wrote a note to the president on the whiteboard in the football locker room, thanking him for coming to the town and for taking an active role in the tragedy's aftermath.
Neither Newtown resident expected Obama to respond (that much was made clear in the surprised tone of a tweet from Newtown football coach Steven George). It's questionable if they even thought there was a chance he would see the note, though they clearly hoped he would. It seems, both men underestimated the commander in chief, who stopped while passing through the room and responded right alongside the original note on the whiteboard.
As first noted by USA Today, you can see the two messages above, but the writing can appear a bit blurry through the camera lens. Here's the full text of what George and teacher Bob Pattinson and President Obama wrote to each other.
Dear President Obama,
The Newtown community is so thankful that you are coming to help us heal. In times of adversity it is reassuring to know that we have a strong leader to help us recover.
- Steve George, Teacher/Football Coach
- Bobby Pattison, Teacher
You're in our thoughts and prayers.
- Barack Obama
Granted, Obama's salvo was brief, but it was still powerful in its brevity. Most importantly, it said what all Americans have said, all they can say in the wake of such an unspeakable tragedy. Newtown is in everyone's prayers.
In this case the president didn't appear to be responding in his official role. Rather, he seemed to be writing as a father of two young girls. There is no mention of the word "President" in his response. Perhaps that is because he felt it wasn't needed. Perhaps he felt it wasn't important.
[Y! News: Funerals begin for Newtown victims]
He would be right in both cases. What was important is that he was another father expressing his sincere condolences for 26 lives lost far too soon, in an unspeakable manner and an unthinkable tragedy.