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Clinton brings words of hope to Oregon school hit by gunfire

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A blue ribbon bearing the word "Promise" on his lapel, President Clinton walked the corridors of Thurston High School - where not one month ago there were sounds of gunfire and screams - to try and console a community and turn its tragedy into an emblem of hope.

"We want something constructive to come out of this," Clinton told an assembly in the school gymnasium just across a breezeway from the cafeteria where 15-year-old Kip Kinkel is accused of opening fire on May 21 - one day after being suspended for stashing a gun in his locker.Clinton said he was echoing words spoken to him privately by the fathers of the two slain boys, Mikael Nickolauson and Ben Walker. Quietly in the school library, Clinton also huddled one-by-one with families of some two dozen wounded students, several of whom were still in casts or on crutches.

To Ben's and Mikael's parents, Clinton said his message was: "One way they can honor their children is to work with us to try to create a country and a set of circumstances which makes it far less likely that these things would be repeated."

He endorsed new legislation introduced by Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith to require that kids bringing guns to school be held over by officials for 72 hours of observation and evaluation.

A billboard just outside of town bore a blue ribbon like Clinton's and a similar plea - "Let it end here."

Hundreds of Springfield residents lined the streets and packed the school's front lawn to wave a greeting, some bearing hand-lettered posters saying, "Thank you for coming."

But, while the bullet holes in the cafeteria have long been spackled over, Clinton's visit rubbed some open wounds.

"We're tired of hearing about it and we want to move on," said Luke Jimenez, 17, who graduated last week.

Another graduate, Aubra Lewellen, 18, said: "It happened along time ago. I feel like he only came because he was in Portland (for a commencement speech). I don't feel like he really came for us."

To explain his intentions, Clinton took the unusual step of addressing reporters before boarding the flight to Springfield. "I want to listen," he said. "I want to learn. I want to be of whatever support I can."