Air Force One

Sarah Parvini, Paloma Esquivel, Laura J. Nelson and Anh Do
December 18, 2015

It has become a sobering pattern of his presidency: Air Force One touches down in a heartbroken town and President Obama rushes toward the grief. He meets moms and dads, fiancés and friends — the newest members of a club no one would choose to join, Americans whose loved ones died in a mass shooting.

On Friday evening, it was San Bernardino’s turn.

During a stop on their way to Hawaii for the holidays, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama came to meet privately with the families of the 14 victims killed two weeks ago in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

“The president felt before he could begin his holiday that it was important for him to spend some time with these Americans who are mourning,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

The Obamas landed at San Bernardino International Airport about 7:40 p.m. and met briefly with San Bernardino Mayor R. Carey Davis and county Supervisor James Ramos. They then headed to nearby Indian Springs High School, where they met privately with victims’ families and first responders.

The school library had been arranged with 14 tables. The Obamas went from table to table, speaking quietly with each family.

Daniel Kaufman, 42, ran the coffee cart at the Inland Regional Center, and trained the developmentally disabled clients who worked there. His boyfriend, Ryan Reyes, said Obama expressed his grief over the family’s loss, and offered the sympathies of the government and the nation.

“I could see that they were pained by what had happened,” Reyes said. “Even under the circumstances, I consider it an honor to have met the president.”

Reyes told Obama that he hoped the nation would see an end to the “anti-Muslim sentiment” that has flared up since the shooting. Obama agreed, he said, and told Kaufman’s loved ones that he hoped the United States could “work together to eradicate the problems that cause tragedies like these,” Reyes said.

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