‘We will win the race:’ President Obama speaks at Boston interfaith memorial

President Barack Obama speaks at an interfaith prayer service for victims of the Boston Marathon. Credit: Getty Images
President Barack Obama speaks at an interfaith prayer service for victims of the Boston Marathon. Credit: Getty Images

President Barack Obama on Thursday promised justice for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and sent a message to the perpetrators, who he described as “small, stunted individuals” who destroy instead of build: “we will find you.  And, yes, you will face justice.”

Obama joined local speakers, including Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley at The Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End for an interfaith gathering that brought together Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders for a healing service designed to let the community grieve and share support.

During his 20-minute speech, which often drew standing ovations and gospel-style shouts from the 2,000-plus crowd, Obama pleaded with Bostonians to summon their strength, and “finish the race.”

“If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us from those values … that define us as Americans, it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it to. Not here in Boston,” Obama said, driving home the point that the city would not be intimidated by the twin blasts, which also injured 176 people in a crowd of thousands.

He also vowed to return to Boston next year to cheer on runners at the 118th Boston Marathon.

“We may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going.  We will finish the race.”

Mayor Menino took the podium about 30 minutes before The President, delivering an emotional affirmation of Boston’s unity.

“This is Boston, a city with courage, compassion and strength that knows no bounds,” said Menino, who was rolled to the podium in a wheelchair but stood for his remarks despite breaking a leg over the weekend. “We love the brave ones who felt the blast and still raced through the smoke with ringing in his ears … to answer cries of those in need.”

The service comes the day after the FBI arrested a Mississippi man in connection with letters believed to contain the deadly poison ricin and sent to federal officials, including Obama.

The FBI said there was no indication of a connection between the ricin letters and the Boston bomb attacks, but they reminded Americans of anthrax mail attacks in the wake of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings 12 years ago.

Hundreds of people crowded outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End, about a mile from the bombing site.

“President Obama knows how important the city of Boston is to the nation and the world,” said 55-year-old John Snyder, who had joined the line before sunrise. “He is bringing his light to us for much-needed healing.”

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Investigators believe the Boston bombs were fashioned out of pressure cookers and packed with shrapnel. Ten victims lost limbs, and emergency room doctors reported plucking nails and ball bearing from the wounded.

Police had considered making an appeal to the public for more information at a news conference on Wednesday, a U.S. government source said, but the FBI canceled it after a number of delays.

Boston police and FBI officials said on Thursday that they had not determined whether they would publicly release more details of the investigation.

The bombs in Boston killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen, Lu Lingzi.

Ahead of his visit, Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, a move that makes federal funding available to the state as it copes with the aftermath of the bombing.

The crowded scene along the race course in central Boston on Monday was recorded by surveillance cameras and media outlets, providing investigators with significant video footage of the area before and after the two blasts.

Based on the shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have placed homemade bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race.

Tens of thousands of people turn out to watch and run in the marathon, which comes on a state holiday and is one of New England’s best-attended sporting events.


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