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Middle Class Tax Cut Act--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, as does the Presiding Officer, I come to the floor this evening with a heavy heart. I know that as Senators and leaders we are expected to have words for every occasion, but what happened last Friday morning makes it very difficult to bring forth words that are appropriate. However, as I think of the Coloradans who were there whom we are so lucky to represent, their actions spoke louder than words. Their actions spoke very loudly on Friday morning in the city of Aurora.

I wish to focus on the actions of those brave, decent Coloradans who were victims in a variety of ways at the horrific movie theater shooting that took place there in Aurora. It cut short the lives of 12 people. It injured approximately 58 others. I rise to pay tribute to all of those people as well as to their families and their loved ones. I think I know the Presiding Officer, my colleague and my fellow Senator from Colorado, knows that, most importantly, we are here to state emphatically that Aurora will triumph over adversity in our State of Colorado to emerge stronger than ever.

From the time I awoke to the news of the movie theater shootings in Aurora early Friday morning, July 20, I, along with the rest of Colorado and our country, have experienced emotions ranging from deep, profound sadness to, frankly, utter outrage. Our State was just starting to recover from the devastating wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes, forced tens of thousands to evacuate their communities, and scorched thousands of acres in our beautiful State of Colorado. With that in mind, none of us could have been prepared for the news of these mass shootings in one of our communities.

I know the Presiding Officer has three beautiful daughters. I have two children. I know that having loved ones stolen from us in such a tragic and violent fashion is something for which one can never be prepared. But it is during these times we are also reminded to cherish those all-too-brief moments we have with the people we love.

Although this heinous crime may have shaken us, it did not break us, and it will not break us. We will mourn those we have lost and those who were injured, and with them in mind we will heal and we will become stronger.

Sadly, this kind of tragedy is not new to Colorado. It was 13 short years ago that we learned of another mass shooting at Columbine High School on the western side of Denver. As a nation, we are reminded of more recent shootings at Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, TX; and Tucson, AZ. These incidents may occur in one city or in one State, but they are national tragedies that tear at us all and then cause us all to tear up and cry together.

Like all Americans, my heart goes out to the victims and their families. I also remain hopeful--the Presiding Officer and I went to one of the hospitals--that the survivors are going to defy the odds on their road to recovery. We have been truly inspired by their stories.

I wish to take a moment and applaud the leadership shown by Colorado's public servants, from Governor John Hickenlooper, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, and especially Chief of Police Dan Oates and the Aurora Police Department. There are also other metro area law enforcement professionals who came to the scene almost immediately, including first responders, and medical professionals on site and at the number of hospitals where the victims were taken.

I think what is most notable is that they worked seamlessly to carry out the city's disaster plan and protect the victims from further harm. The police and firefighters arrived a mere 90 seconds after the first 9-1-1 call was placed. There is no question that lives were saved by the swift and coordinated action of Aurora's first responders.

I have to say that this incident shows what similar tragedies have before: that America shines brightest when the night is darkest, and that was literally the situation at midnight on Friday morning in Aurora.

We had the uplifting experience of hearing the stories of bravery coming out of Aurora. We marveled at those stories on Sunday. We start with the fact that at least four young men demonstrated the heights of heroism when they sacrificed their lives to protect their girlfriends from the hail of this gunman's bullets. One young woman had the courage to remain by the side of her wounded friend, calmly applying pressure to her friend's bleeding neck wound while dialing 9-1-1 with her other hand as the gunfire continued around her. Let me put it this way: Lives were saved Friday morning by those who did not let fear override their capacity to care for one another.

These experiences have underlined for me and our entire Nation that what makes us great and will help us endure this tragedy is our people. I saw that Sunday night, as did the Presiding Officer, while participating in a moving vigil in Aurora where our community not only mourned together but also held together during this most difficult time. Although the West is known for its rugged individuals, Colorado is also known for its rugged cooperators--people who help their neighbors in times of adversity. We saw that after the recent wildfires, and we see it again now.

President Obama's visit with victims and families on July 22--just Sunday--2 days ago in Aurora, provided comfort and support to those in need and again reminded us that the sanctity and strength of family and community is what unites us in the face of adversity. Coloradans have seen that in the wake of this tragedy, our Nation has come together for Aurora and our State, and to my colleagues and anyone listening today, let me say humbly that we are grateful.

I wish to take a moment to say the names of the 12 people who were taken from us too soon. I know that later my colleague will share even more of their stories with us and with the Nation. Their families and friends have my commitment that we will, to honor these good people, these Coloradans, never forget them as the healing process goes on.

The 12 Coloradans, the Americans whom we lost Friday morning are Jonathan T. Blunk, Alexander J. Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, Micayla Medek, Matthew McQuinn, John Larimer, Alex M. Sullivan, Alexander Teves, Rebecca Wingo, and I think the hardest name for all of us to say is that of 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. I smile in my sadness because I think the Presiding Officer has seen the photo of her with an ice cream cone in hand, delight on her face, ice cream on her nose. I guess maybe what we could do is take the time to enjoy an ice cream cone, maybe leave that ice cream on our nose for a little bit, and remember her.

In honor of these victims, I have submitted a resolution--S. Con. Res. 53--along with my colleague, the Presiding Officer, Senator Bennet. Congressman Perlmutter has filed an identical resolution in the House of Representatives. The resolution, among many things, strongly condemns the atrocities which occurred in Aurora; offers condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who were killed in the attack and expresses hope for the rapid and complete recovery of the wounded; applauds the hard work and dedication exhibited by the hundreds of local, State, and Federal officials and others who offered their support and assistance; and last but certainly not least, honors the resilience of the community of the city of Aurora and the State of Colorado in the face of such adversity. I ask all of my colleagues in the Senate to support Aurora and support this resolution.

As we pay tribute to our fallen fellow Americans and the heroes around them, here is what I hope will come out of what can only be described as a senseless tragedy: We must harness the sense of community we feel this week and use it to create a lasting sense of collaboration in America and use it to solve our shared challenges in a measured, respectful, and thoughtful way. We can truly learn from those who selflessly gave of themselves during the chaos of the Aurora shootings and draw from it the strength to be better people, better family members, and, yes, even better legislators.

In Roman mythology, Aurora is the goddess of the dawn who renews herself each morning. At dawn on Friday, the chaos and the pain and the tragedy of the night before still lingered over that wonderful city of Aurora, but by dawn on the second day, signs of heroism, of recovery, of community began to shine through the darkness of the great Colorado city called Aurora.

As each dawn signals a new day, we owe it to the victims to rise to the occasion and renew our commitment to make this a better, stronger, and more perfect Nation.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.


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