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Condemning the Horrific Attacks in Newtown, Connecticut, and Expressing Support and Prayers for All Those Impacted by This Tragedy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COURTNEY. Mr. Speaker, again I want to just begin by saluting my colleague from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, who over the last 72 hours has been the voice of the community of western Connecticut, and Newtown in particular. He has handled his role in that capacity with poise and good decorum and taste. It really is something that I think we should all, in this Chamber, be so proud of.

I would also want to mention that he did it as a father of someone who has a 4-year-old son, Owen, who I'm sure was seeing all around him the events that were unfolding, the unspeakable horror again in the eyes of a parent of a child really of the same age group. Again, we are just so lucky to have had his amazing leadership over the last 3 or 4 days.

The President last night opened his remarks about how the town of Newtown is really like many communities in America. To a point, it's true. It's 29,000, tight-knit, a very small town. But it is a town that, frankly, is above average in many instances.

It is a school system that scores at the absolute top of the Mastery Test in the State of Connecticut. And that doesn't happen by accident. It's because it has parents and staff that, year in and year out, have been so committed to making sure the children succeed and excel, and it has been a model for the State of Connecticut and for our country when education really still is, I think, probably one of the most important challenges that we need to succeed in as a country.

For this event to happen at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a school that, when I was sitting with the Board of Education last night during the interfaith vigil, all of them were talking about their kids who'd gone through Sandy Hook and now were successfully pursuing careers in New York and the west coast and in Connecticut, it really just tore the heart out of this community. It's a community where they've had one act of homicide over the last 10 years. And to see those police officers come down the aisle after having to respond to this unspeakable horror and to see the looks on their face and the emotional drain that took place, it really was just something that was just so out of any norm for any community, but certainly, in particular, for the town of Newtown.

As Chris said, in every instance, whether it was the principal, the teachers, the parents, the first responders, the caregivers, they rose to the challenge. They did their job.

Victoria Soto, the teacher who shielded and literally saved the lives of at least half a dozen students, was in the middle of a lesson when this person burst into her classroom, 10 minutes from beginning to end. Since this debate has started, the event had already reached its conclusion, just in the time that we've been here on the floor. For her to think so quickly and to react so courageously is an act of human excellence that I think all of us will wonder whether or not we ourselves could have possibly done the same.

Her example, the example of the police and the EMS, the example of the doctors and nurses who responded so quickly, frankly, I see that as a challenge to this Congress. They acted. They did what they were supposed to do. And as the President said last night, if you believe that the measure of a society is how we protect our children, if you're honest, you have to answer that we really are not doing all that we can do, and, frankly, it is time for us to follow the example of the Victoria Sotos and to act. This resolution tonight is so important to begin that first step. But the fact of the matter is that there is much more that needs to be done.

This morning, as I was driving to the airport on the back roads of Connecticut, I went by a number of elementary schools. At every single one of them, there was a police cruiser at the entrance. Again, the State police and the local police departments, I think, were being very thoughtful. They wanted to make sure that when the parents and kids were going to school, they felt safe, and that after all they had seen on the TV over the weekend, it was okay to go in the entrance of their schools. But that is not an answer. To say that we are going to turn our schools into fortresses is not where we should be as a Nation. We need to go deeper in terms of solving this problem of mass killings and of violence that now, again, is striking at the most innocent in our society.

I look forward to working with the gentleman from the Fifth District over the next few days, and when he takes his new duties as the new Senator from the State of Connecticut, to make sure that the people in that room last night who were listening to the President, the people in our State, the people in our country, the people in the world that are now watching us, that we make sure that we deliver, just like the brave people of the town of Newtown did over this past weekend.


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