"What a mess," he told their son Zack, a third grader at the shattered school. Zack's father, Scott, ran into the school just before the storm hit and ran with his terrified son back to their home's storm shelter.
"You've got some story to tell," Obama told the boy. "This is something you'll remember all your life."
Obama later met privately with victims' families at Moore Fire Department Station #1, which has turned into a command center with dozens of first responders sitting at folding tables where fire trucks are normally parked. Obama marveled that they saved so many lives "given the devastation."
"I know this is tough," he told superintendent Susie Pierce as he gripped her hand.
As he descended the stairs upon landing at Tinker Air Base near here, Obama was greeted first by Fallin, who had said earlier she appreciated the visit, but that her state also needed quick action from FEMA.
The Republican governor said that so far, the agency has done a great job of speeding relief and cash assistance to affected families, but said she's concerned about the long run.
"There's going to come a time when there's going to be a tremendous amount of need once we begin the debris clearing, which we already have, but really get it cleared off to where we need to start rebuilding these homes, rebuilding these businesses," she said on CBS' "Face the Nation." `'And we know at different times in the past, money hasn't come always as quickly as it should."
Fallin said the money is particularly vital for the victims. "A lot of people lose their checkbooks, they lose their credit cards, they lose their driver's license, their birth certificates, their insurance papers, they lose everything, and they have no cash. And some of the banks were even hit, the ATM machines, so people need cash to get immediate needs," she said on CBS.
Earnest touted the federal contributions so far, including Obama's signing of a disaster declaration within hours of the storm to speed aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Earnest said that 450 FEMA personnel were working on the ground in Oklahoma and have delivered 43,000 meals, 150,000 liters of water and thousands of cots, blankets and tarps. He said 4,200 people have applied for disaster assistance, and $3.4 million in payments have been approved.
Among the tornado victims were 10 children, including two sisters pulled by the strong winds out of their mother's grasp, an infant who died along with his mother trying to ride out the storm in a convenience store and seven students at Plaza Towers. Many students were pulled from the rubble after the school was destroyed.