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Obama expecting ’emotional’ vigil with families in Orlando

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(CNN) — President Barack Obama arrived in Orlando Thursday for the grim task of consoling families after their loved ones were gunned down during another horrific U.S. shooting, this time in a Florida nightclub.

In what’s become a recurring tableau of his presidency, Obama will meet with the parents, siblings and spouses of the 49 individuals who were shot to death at the Pulse gay nightclub over the weekend.

“This will be, I think, an emotional trip,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

Obama has traveled to the sites of at least nine mass shootings in the United States during his two terms, including three in the last year, to meet with families of the dead.

The Orlando shooting is unique, though, both in the scale of the tragedy — the death toll makes it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history — and the shooter’s ties to global terror. Obama said this week the shooter had pledged allegiance to ISIS but didn’t appear to be directed by the organization.

It targeted a gay nightclub, with many of the victims gay and Latino. That has further escalated the debate following the attack, which has struck on a series of charged political and cultural flash-points of Obama-era America.

Vice President Joe Biden is joining Obama in Orlando to meet with the victims’ families, the White House said on Wednesday. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former 2016 GOP presidential candidate, accompanied Obama on his flight in a demonstration of the President’s interest to “show solidarity,” according to the White House. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, greeted Obama at airport, as did several other local officials. Obama called the governor Wednesday.

In the city, Obama plans to visit survivors of the terrorist attack, many of whom suffered serious injuries but emerged from the massacre alive. The President will also meet with some of the first responders, nurses and doctors who treated the wounded, too.

At some point Thursday afternoon, Obama is expected to deliver brief remarks to reporters about his experiences and to “make clear that the country stands with the people of Orlando, stands with the LGBT community in Orlando as they grieve for their loss,” according to Earnest.

Obama has described the private moments meeting with grieving families as some of the most wrenching of his tenure, a job his aides say requires him to draw on his religious faith.

In the last 12 months, Obama has met with victims’ families in Charleston, South Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; and San Bernardino, California. He’s also traveled to Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Connecticut and the Washington Navy Yard during his presidency to mourn with families who lost loved ones in shootings.

“The President’s life has been personally touched by his interactions with people who have endured terrible tragedy,” Earnest said Wednesday. “But it would be impossible for him to not be personally affected by these kinds of conversations and these kinds of interactions.”

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