Obama Offers Message Of Resilience After Boston Attacks

President Obama attended an interfaith service in Boston honoring the victims and survivors of the marathon bombing.

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We stand with you. That was President Obama's promise to Boston today. He delivered a message of strength and resilience at an inter-faith service in Boston's towering Cathedral of the Holy Cross. NPR's Ari Shapiro was there.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: One of the first to speak at today's service was Boston Mayor Tom Menino. Still recovering from leg surgery, he struggled out of his wheelchair to stand and speak, a living symbol of this city's refusal to give up in the face of pain.

MAYOR TOM MENINO: I'm telling you, no thing can defeat the heart of this city. Nothing. Nothing will take us down because we take care of one another.

SHAPIRO: That promise of solidarity and resilience was the message of the day. Governor Deval Patrick drew cheers when he said Massachusetts invented America.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: In a dark hour, so many of you showed so many of us that darkness cannot drive out darkness, as Dr. King said. Only light can do that.

SHAPIRO: Patrick introduced his friend, the president of the United States, who talked about the beautiful morning that dawned in Boston the day of the attacks.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A day that explains why a poet once wrote that this town is not just a capital, not just a place. Boston, he said, is the perfect state of grace.

SHAPIRO: Obama said that an attack on Boston feels personal and then he talked about the three people who died when the bombs went off, including eight-year-old Martin Richard.

OBAMA: And we're left with two enduring images of this little boy: forever smiling for his beloved Bruins, and forever expressing a wish he made on a little poster board: no more hurting people. Peace.

SHAPIRO: Then the president spoke to the people in hospital rooms across this city still recovering from the blast, watching him on TV.

OBAMA: 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.

SHAPIRO: He compared the struggling city and the country to exhausted marathoners near the end of a race.

OBAMA: Like Bill Ifrig, 78 years old, the runner in the orange tank-top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast, we may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we'll pick ourselves up. We'll keep going. We will finish the race.

(APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: This was Obama the orator, a man who is famous for his ability to give a speech that, even in a time of mourning, can bring a crowd roaring to its feet. He said, we come together to celebrate life and walk our cities and cheer for our teams.

OBAMA: When the Sox, the Celtics and Patriots or 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. 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.

(APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: Then the president left to meet with victims, first-responders and volunteers in person, to thank individually the people he had just valorized on the national stage. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Boston.

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