Obama Honors Bombing Victims in Boston

The American flag on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol is lowered to half-staff on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2013, in Washington, to honor the victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Associated Press Release

BOSTON (AP) -- Called upon to console a grieving city and reassure a shaken nation, President Barack Obama on Thursday promised that Boston would "run again" after deadly twin bombings at its famous marathon. More than 2,000 people rose in a standing ovation in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and sang "America the Beautiful."

Obama's message of resolve in time of tragedy was echoed by Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick at a packed interfaith service.

"Nothing will take us down because we take care of one another," Menino said. "Even with the smell of smoke in the air and blood in the streets and tears in our eyes, we triumphed over that hateful act."

Three people were killed and more than 170 others were injured, some of them grievously, in Monday's bombings near the race's finish line.

Obama, in the midst of an emotional and trying stretch for the country and his presidency, vowed to track down those responsible and lauded Boston's "undaunted" spirit.

"Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act," he told the gathering.

Yet Obama's words underscored the stark reality that has left many Americans jittery. Officials still don't know who was responsible for the bombings or what their motivations were, though authorities appeared to be narrowing their search for a suspect.

For Obama, the bombings began a week consumed not only by terror but also disaster and political defeat. Letters sent to Washington officials, including Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., were found to contain traces of poisonous ricin in tests, evoking eerie parallels to the anthrax attacks that followed the terror of Sept. 11, 2001.

The president also lost a fight for new gun control measures in the Senate, then awoke Thursday to news of a powerful fertilizer plant explosion that devastated a small Texas town.

Speaking from the pulpit in the soaring cathedral, the president didn't explicitly declare the deadly marathon explosions an "act of terror" as he did earlier in the week during remarks at the White House. But he showed little restraint in describing those responsible for the attack, calling them "small, stunted individuals."

"Yes, we will find you, and yes, you will face justice," he said, as the crowd -- some wearing bright yellow marathon jackets -- applauded.

Also in the crowd was Obama's former presidential rival, Mitt Romney, who served one term as Massachusetts governor. Several state officials, including Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and William "Mo" Cowan, traveled to Boston with Obama on Air Force One, as did Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Massachusetts icon, Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The president spoke of Boston in personal terms, reminding the audience of the years he spent in the city as a student at Harvard Law School. Boston was also the host for the 2004 Democratic National Convention that featured Obama as the keynote speaker, a role that would thrust the little-known Illinois state senator into the national spotlight.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat at the front of the church next to Patrick. A mournful string solo by cellist Yo-Yo Ma preceded the governor's own remarks.

"We will grieve our losses and heal," Patrick said. "We will rise, and we will endure. We will have accountability without vengeance, vigilance without fear."

Thursday's service included reflections by representatives of Protestant denominations, the Jewish, Muslim and Greek Orthodox faiths, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, head of the Roman Catholic church in Boston.

The event was open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis, but the line to try to get a ticket stretched at least two city blocks. There was a heavy police presence around the cathedral in the city's South End, and authorities closed nearby streets to traffic.

"I think it's important that we heal as well as those who were affected. I guess sometimes you feel you can't do a single thing, and this is something we can do," said Beth Anne Stevenson, a Boston Medical Center surgical intensive care unit nurse.

Ricky Hall, 67, of Cambridge, showed up at 8 a.m. and stayed even after he believed he wouldn't get inside.

"I came to pay my respects to the victims," he said.

Following the 90-minute service, Warren urged Bostonians not to succumb to fear.

"We will be vigilant but we will not be afraid," she said.

The Obamas met privately with the family of Krystle Campbell, 29, who was among those killed in the attack. The Obamas also visited with many of the injured in their hospital rooms at Massachusetts General Hospital and thanked the marathon volunteers who rushed toward danger to help the wounded.

Separately, the first lady met with patients, their families and hospital staff at Boston Children's Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Obama has played this role before, serving as the nation's consoler in chief at times of heartbreaking tragedy. He's grieved with the families of those killed in shootings at Newtown, Conn., Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., and Fort Hood, Texas. And he's comforted residents in tornado-ravaged Missouri and storm-ravaged communities in New York and New Jersey.

CBS Web Copy

In an emotional speech at an interfaith service honoring the victims of Monday's Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama encouraged the city, and the nation, to show resolve in the face of terrorism.

"As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you, your commonwealth is with you, your country is with you," Mr. Obama said at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

"You will run again," he said to applause from the grieving attendees. "You will run again, because that's what the people of Boston are made of. Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act. If they sought to ... terrorize us... it should be pretty clear by now they picked the wrong city to do it."

Mr. Obama opened and closed his remarks -- which he wrote himself, according to a senior White House official -- by quoting Biblical scripture fitting for marathon runners: Scripture tells us to 'run with endurance the race that is set before us,'" Mr. Obama said.

"That's what you've taught us, Boston, that's what you've reminded us -- to push on, to persevere," he continued. "Even when our heart aches, we summon the strength maybe we didn't even know we had, and we carry on... We do that because we know that somewhere around the bend, a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody's there to boost our spirits."

Mr. Obama spoke about his personal connection to Boston -- he attended Harvard Law School and delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 -- and he spoke about the reasons why the rest of the globe cherishes Boston as "one of the world's great cities."

"Whether folks come here to Boston for just a day or they stay here for years, they live with a piece of this town tucked firmly into their hearts," he said. "Boston's your home town, but we claim it a little bit, too. I know this because there's a piece of Boston in me."

"We join you in saying, Boston, you're my home," he added. "What happened on Monday is personal. It's personal."

Mr. Obama was one of several political officials in attendance at the service. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick also made remarks at the event, along with Boston's various faith leaders.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney was in attendance at the invitation of Patrick. Secretary of State John Kerry, who served as a senator from Massachusetts for 28 years, could not attend because he had to testify before a Senate committee in Washington on Thursday. However, his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry was in the audience.

Massachusetts' congressional delegation was also in attendance, with most of them traveling from Washington to Boston with Mr. Obama on Air Force One. Vicki Kennedy, wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., also traveled aboard Air Force One.

Before departing from the White House Thursday morning, Mr. Obama was briefed on the latest from the bombing investigation by Lisa Monaco, deputy national security adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. On Wednesday, the president signed a disaster declaration for the state of Massachusetts, making additional federal resources available to state and local officials.

In addition to speaking at the interfaith service, Mr. Obama on Thursday also met with the families of those injured or killed, as well as the first responders and volunteers who were on the scene.

On the way to Boston, Mr. Obama called Texas Gov. Rick Perry to talk about the West, Texas explosion. The president told the governor his prayers are with the people of West and offered any federal resources needed for the response and recovery effort. Mr. Obama also called the mayor of West, but they were not able to connect at the time.

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White House Blog: whitehouse.gov

Following a briefing from FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco, President Obama went to the Brady Press Briefing Room to update Americans on developments in Boston, following two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon.

"We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens, and to investigate and to respond to this attack," the President said in a televised address. "Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families, and the city of Boston. We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including a 8-year-old boy.

"This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual."

The President assured the American people that while it will take time to determine what happened, "we will find whoever harmed our citizens. And we will bring them to justice."

In addition to highlighting the tremendous acts of heroism by the men and women of the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and other agencies and first responders yesterday, the President praised the kindness, generosity and love that was on display throughout the city of Boston in the aftermath of the bombings. "if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil -- that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid."

White House Blog: whitehouse.gov

This evening, President Obama made a statement about today’s explosions at the Boston Marathon.

The President explained that he had been briefed by his Homeland Security team, who are continuing to monitor the situation as it unfolds, and had "directed the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities protect our people, increase security around the United States as necessary, and investigate what happened."

“The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight,” he said. “And Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.”

" We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake -- we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.

Today is a holiday in Massachusetts -- Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I'm supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.

You should anticipate that as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We're still in the investigation stage at this point. But I just want to reiterate we will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable."