President Barack Obama said the people of Boston and the U.S. aren’t cowed by the deadly terrorist attack at the city’s signature marathon and the resilience on display in the aftermath “is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act.”
“The Scripture teaches us, God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline,” Obama said today at an interfaith service for the victims of the bombing. “And that’s the spirit you’ve displayed in recent days.”
“We’ll pick ourselves up, we’ll keep going,” he said. “We will finish the race.”
The pews at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross were filled for the service by dignitaries, including former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as well as police officers, firefighters, medical personnel and local residents.
“You showed us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good,” he said. “Our fidelity to our way of life, to our free and open society, will only grow stronger.”
To the “small, stunted individuals” responsible for the death and destruction, Obama said: “Yes, we will find you and yes, you will face justice.”
Obama spoke as the FBI is keying in on video images of two potential suspects, one of whom was recorded dropping a black bag near where one of the two deadly bombs exploded, according to federal law enforcement officials. They also are trying to identify a small group of people for questioning based on their actions in some of the video images, said one of the officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss the case.
Obama was introduced by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick who said his “shock and confusion and anger” in the immediate aftermath of the bombing turned to gratitude for the many police officers who ran toward the crowd without knowing the attack had ended and the spectators and runners who rushed to give aid to the wounded.
“We cannot permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith,” he said. “We will rise and we will endure. We will have accountability without vengeance.”
Outside the church, Wes Meserve, 24, of Merrimac, Massachusetts, a grant accountant for Boston Medical Center, said he was volunteering at the finish line on April 15 and was 30 feet from an explosion. He felt a rush of wind and saw blood on the ground.
He said he hopes to run in the 2014 race.
“Next year, the marathon will be the safest place in the world,” he said.
While Boston is a city of 625,000 people, the community is close-knit, according to Andy Wismer, a 32-year-old freelance video engineer. He knew Krystle Campbell, one of the three people killed by the bomb blasts, from the restaurant where she worked.
“The city is just like a small, big town,” Wismer said. “It’s like a big network, and we watch each other’s back.”
After the service, Obama met with members of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the Boston Marathon. He lauded the spirit of their response in the face of an attack.
“You have inspired the entire country, and you’ve inspired the world,” he said.
Before returning to Washington, Obama met privately with some of the victims and their families and the hospital staff at Massachusetts General Hospital.
After massacres in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut, Obama has become accustomed to consoling communities in mourning.
In Boston today, his task was more complicated.
For the first time in his presidency, Obama was trying to calm the public while the killer is still at large, and it still isn’t certain if the explosions that claimed three lives and left more than 170 wounded were inspired by al-Qaeda, domestic politics or the twists of some deranged mind.
Obama’s challenge is “a more delicate balancing act” than simply remembering the dead, Richard Falkenrath, President George W. Bush’s former counter-terrorism adviser, said yesterday.
“You have to manage the public’s perception of threat, rather than simply just dealing the grief and the recovery after a horrible incident had ended,” Falkenrath said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
Americans have come to expect their president, whoever it is, to minister to the nation during such a crisis.
“President Obama, like his predecessors, is, sadly, experienced in these things,” said Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant who was an adviser to former President Bill Clinton.