A Moment Of Silence For Shooting Victims

President Obama paused for a moment of silence Monday to commemorate the lives of six people who died in Tucson, Ariz., this weekend, and to salute Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who is fighting for her life.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In the Arizona legislature today, the tone was more subdued. The legislature convened with an invocation delivered by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Phoenix Catholic Diocese.

Mr. THOMAS J. OLMSTED (Bishop, Phoenix Catholic Diocese): O loving God, creator and father of us all, we come before you with hearts weighed down by the terrible violence that took place in Tucson on Saturday. We grieve for Judge John Roll and for all those who have died. We stand in prayerful solidarity with their families and friends. We pray for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and for all who were injured and for those who love and care for them.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Governor Jan Brewer had been scheduled to deliver her state of the state address and she did. But the text was new.

Governor JAN BREWER (Republican, Arizona): Tragedy and terror sometime comes from the shadows and steal our joy and take away our peace. That happened on Saturday when a gunman took away people we love, innocent people, and outstanding public servants.

NORRIS: Governor Brewer is a conservative Republican who endorsed Gabrielle Giffords' opponent in the 2010 campaign. But today she called Giffords "my good friend" and prayed for her recovery.

SIEGEL: The attacks in Tucson have changed Washington, at least for today. Leaders put their business on hold and President Obama and the first lady observed a moment of silence, along with people all over the country.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on a solemn day in the nation's capital.

ARI SHAPIRO: On a freezing Washington morning, a few hundred White House staffers huddled in their coats on the South Lawn. Just before 11 a.m., the president and first lady emerged wearing long overcoats. They didn't say a word. A member of the Marine band struck a long silver chime with a hammer to mark the beginning of the moment of silence.

(Soundbite of chime)

SHAPIRO: The Obamas bowed their heads and closed their eyes. After a minute they walked back into the White House. The president has changed his schedule for this week. He won't go to upstate New York tomorrow as scheduled. Last night he continued making calls to victims' family members. He spoke with Congresswoman Giffords' husband and the family of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in the shooting.

Today's White House meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy went ahead as planned. Mr. Obama sat next to Sarkozy in the Oval Office and said, all of us are still grieving and in shock. But he urged Americans to focus on the courage that people showed outside of that grocery store in Tucson - the citizens who wrestled the gunman to the ground and the intern who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss.

President BARACK OBAMA: Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.

SHAPIRO: The president said he has been in touch with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and other officials about planning a memorial service in the next several days.

Pres. OBAMA: But I think it's going to be important, I think, for the country as a whole, as well as the people in Arizona to feel as if we are speaking directly to our sense of loss, but also speaking to our hopes for the future and how out of this tragedy we can come together as a stronger nation.

SHAPIRO: On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, the steps of the Capitol were crowded with shivering congressional staffers marking the national moment of silence. Many lawmakers were in their home districts where they held events. Congress is not in session today. A planned vote to repeal the health care law won't take place on Wednesday as scheduled, out of respect for the victims of the shooting.

In the halls of Congress, people lined up outside of Congresswoman Giffords' office to sign a guestbook. Rachel Pfeffer(ph) from Maryland was one of them.

Ms. RACHEL PFEFFER: I just wrote that they're in my thoughts and prayers and wishing the congresswoman a speedy recovery. I just wanted her to know that we're all pulling for her, and not just the people at the top, but the little people, too.

SHAPIRO: Outside the Capitol grounds, as across the country, the flags were flying at half staff.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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