President Obama honored the victims of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing in an interfaith service Thursday, striking cords of resilience and resolve as he vowed to the wounded, iconic American city, “You will run again.”
“We may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race,” Obama told the victims’ families, government officials, community leaders and first responders at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.
The twin explosions near the finish line of Boston’s 117th marathon on Monday killed three people, all under 30 years old and as young as 8. More than 170 others were wounded, with 58 remaining hospitalized as of Thursday morning. President Obama paid tribute to the victims during the interfaith service, reflecting on 8-year-old Martin Richard’s “big smile and bright eyes,” and the message he inscribed on the blue poster board he is seen holding in a photograph: “No more hurting people. Peace.”
“Our prayers are with the injured—so many wounded, some gravely,” Obama said. “From their beds, some are surely watching us gather here today. And if you are, know this: As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again.”
The president and first lady planned to visit the wounded at Massachusetts General Hospital Thursday, along with their families and first responders. Before the service, they visited with the family of 29-year-old victim Krystal Campbell.
President Obama’s 20-minute speech concluded the hour and a half long interfaith service, which featured moving addresses by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Merino, who in a powerful display of strength rose from his wheelchair and stood on the leg he had previously broken. Clergy leaders joined the service and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma played. The crowd joined the choir singing “America the Beautiful” after the President’s rousing address.
Obama paid tribute to Boston as a city that “opens its heart to the world” year-round through the welcoming of students, immigrants, and great talents—and especially on the third Monday in April, when the city celebrates Patriot’s Day and Marathon Day simultaneously, as it has for more than a century.
‘YOU WELCOMED ME’
In a show of solidarity, the president told the crowd gathered in Boston that the rest of America grieves alongside its neighbors. “Boston may be your hometown, but we claim it, too,” Obama said.
He reflected on his own time as a resident during his years at Harvard, and the role the powerful Democrat stronghold played in his political ascension.
“You welcomed me as a young law student across the river,” he said. “You welcomed Michelle, too. [You] welcomed me during a convention when I was still a state senator and very few people could pronnounce my name right.”
Then, in a reference to the Standells song “Dirty Water” that plays without fail at the last out of a winning Red Sox game at Fenway Park, Obama continued: “Like you, Michelle and I have walked these streets. Like you we know these neighborhoods. And like you in this moment of grief, we join you in saying, ‘Boston, you’re my home.’”
As he has in past times of tragedy that shook the national consciousness, including violence in Tucson, Ariz.; Aurora, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; and most recently, in Newtown, Conn., President Obama reiterated the strength of the American spirit and vowed that justice would be served.
“Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act,” Obama said Thursday. “If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us away from those values that [Massachusetts Governor] Deval [Patrick] described, the values that make us who we are as Americans–well it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it.”
Those responsible for Monday’s attack have not been arrested, and no motive is clear, but investigators are seeking two men seen near the scene for more questioning.
On a deeply moving note that brought the nearly 2,000 person crowd to its feet, the president vowed that Boston would carry on.
“When the Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, the Bruins are champions again–to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans–the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street,” he said. “And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it!”