President Barack Obama arrived shortly after 12:30 p.m. Thursday to visit families of the victims of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
He descended the stairs of Air Force One with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.
Once on the tarmac, the president was briefly greeted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Dyer presented the president with an “Orlando United” T-shirt, with a heart-shaped rainbow.
Traveling separately, and arriving 20 minutes earlier, was Vice President Joe Biden. Included in the entourage is U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Melbourne.
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Visiting the site of a mass shooting has become a frequent occurrence for president, who has worked to strengthen the nation’s gun laws amid a spate of domestic terror attacks. Sunday’s shooting at Pulse nightclub has spawned renewed debate about terrorism and access to assault weapons.
Obama plans to meet with families of the victims, as well as with doctors, paramedics and other first responders who came to the aid of the more than 100 dead and wounded. He is also expected to speak publicly during his visit
“It means everything,” Jacobs said after greeting the president. “He expressed his sympathy and concern, and I thanked him for his support. It means a tremendous amount to the whole country — to see that the president is so involved, so engaged and is here to greet the families, to greet the first responders.”
The White House has limited media access to the meeting with families, which will be held in a side room at the city’s Amway Center, a downtown sports arena just miles from the nightclub where the shooting occurred.
Scott was accompanied by FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen, his security and press entourage and chief of staff Kim McDougal.
Scott and Obama spoke by phone Wednesday, a day after the governor appeared on “Fox & Friends” to underscore the fact that he had not personally received a call from the president.
The governor has remained in Orlando since the shooting, spending time making the rounds before the national television cameras, privately meeting with victims at Orlando Regional Medical Center and attending several prayer vigils.
Also traveling with Obama were aides Valerie Jarrett, Lisa Monaco, Eric Schultz and Anita Decker Breckenridge.