May 21, 2013 -- Offering prayers and assurances to the victims of the devastating tornado in Moore, Okla., President Obama said this morning that he was instructing the federal government to provide the people of Moore with everything they need "right away" as they recover from "one of the most destructive tornadoes in history."
"As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead," the president said in a White House statement. "Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes."
The president spoke shortly after he was briefed on the federal response in the Oval Office by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate was on his way to Oklahoma.
"The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes, for their home and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, their parents to console, first responders to comfort, and of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention," he said, as he stood alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino in the State Dining Room.
"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," he said.
Late last night, the president signed a "major disaster declaration" for Oklahoma and ordered federal aid to start flowing to the victims. He also spoke by phone in the Oval Office with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to express his concern and to offer aid.