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Posted at 1:17 PM ET, 01/10/2011

White House, Supreme Court, NASA observe moment of silence

By Washington Post staff


Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

President Obama, the Supreme Court justices and NASA observed a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Monday to honor the victims of the shooting Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

In the brief ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, a chime rang three times, and Obama, his wife, Michelle, and more than 200 White House staff members bowed their heads for one minute. The Obamas, with their arms around each other, then walked back into the White House.

The president has not spoken publicly since Saturday about the tragedy in which six people were killed and 14 were wounded, among them Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is in critical condition after being shot in the back of the head. But he is likely to address it during remarks to the press this afternoon after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The White House has canceled a series of events since the shooting, but not the long-planned session with the French president, who is presiding over the G-8 and G-20 summits later this year.

The Supreme Court tweaked its schedule to make sure that its first oral argument end precisely before the moment of silence began. All nine justices bent their heads and closed their eyes, and the packed courtroom fell silent until Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said, "Thank you."

Roberts had earlier told those in the ornate courtroorm that the moment would be observed "to honor the innocent victims of the tragedy."

"That senseless shooting on Saturday caused devastating injury to persons who all, in their own way, contribute to the strength of our nation," he said. "The victims include a dedicated member of the federal judiciary, Chief Judge John Roll of the District of Arizona. I speak for the members of this court in extending our condolences to all the victims and their families."

Hundreds of congressional staffers gathered on the east steps of the Capitol to observe the moment of silence. Congress was not in session Monday, and most of those participating were employees of congressional offices and others who work in the Capitol.

From a space station, commander Scott Kelly spoke via radio to NASA employees before leading then in the moment of silence for his sister-in-law Giffords.

"We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station," he said. "As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not."

Kelly, whose brother, Mark, is married to Giffords and is also a space station commander, added: "These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.

"We're better than this. We must do better."

Kelly described his sister-in-law as "a caring and dedicated public servant."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


More from Post Politics:
-- Obama's Challenge: What to say
-- LIVE BLOG: The Tucson Shooting
-- U.S. sees evidence of assassination plot
-- Giffords in critical 48-hour period
-- BlogPost: DId you observe moment of silence?
-- How an event for constituents turned tragic

By Washington Post staff  | January 10, 2011; 1:17 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: Sarah Palin responds to Arizona shooting: 'I hate violence'

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