WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump visited Las Vegas on Wednesday to deliver a message on behalf of a mourning nation to the family and friends of the dozens slain and hundreds injured by a gunman’s hail of bullets Sunday night.
“You are not alone,” Trump said.
“Our souls are stricken with grief for every American who lost a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter,” he said. “We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain.”
The president’s consoling words were accompanied by an expression of gratitude to the civilians and first responders who saved lives at great peril to their own and prevented even more fatalities in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“In the depths of horror we will always find hope in the men and women who risk their lives for ours,” Trump said in an address at the Las Vegas police department command center. “The mass murder that took place on Sunday night fills America’s heart with grief. America is truly a nation in mourning.”
The president and first lady Melania Trump began their day in Las Vegas by visiting with the wounded recuperating at University Medical Center. Trauma center director Dr. John Fildes recounted the chaotic intake of patients on the night of massacre.
Trump met with eight families and about 100 doctors, nurses and EMTs who have been working around the clock at the hospital, primarily in the trauma unit, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later.
The Trumps and local elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, then sat with police officers, firefighters and dispatchers whose professionalism and bravery were relayed by Sheriff Joseph Lombardo.
A gunman perched in the 32nd-floor window of a hotel-casino Sunday night fired into a crowd of country music festival attendees below him, murdering at least 58 for reasons that authorities were still working to discern. At least 527 were hurt by gunfire or panicked attempts to escape the horror.
First responders, on and off duty, had rushed to the aid of concert-goers. Civilians also had shielded strangers, tended to the wounded and transported people from the scene.
Trump honored their heroism by recounting their stories.
He added of those who gave their lives: “The example of those whose final act was to sacrifice themselves for those they loved should inspire all of us to show more love every day for the people who grace our lives.”
The president had similarly commended selfless acts earlier at the hospital.
“Some were very, very badly wounded, and they were badly wounded because they refused to leave,” the president said of the patients he met. “They wanted to help others because they saw people going down all over.”
He sought to remind the country of its collective goodness.
“We struggle for the words to explain to our children how such evil can exist, how there can be such cruelty and such suffering,” Trump said. “But we cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror. We are defined by our love, our caring and courage.”
In exchanges with reporters Wednesday, Trump called shooter Stephen Craig Paddock a “very sick man” and “very demented person.”
He added of Paddock: “The wires are screwed up.”
As lawmakers, activists and others in Washington, D.C. push opposing views on stricter gun control on the wake of the latest mass shooting, Trump stayed out of the debate on firearms legislation and violence.
“We’re not going to talk about that today,” he said. “We won’t talk about that.”