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Obama says Boston’s resilience serves as rebuke to terrorism

President Barack Obama meets with Boston Athletic Association volunteers after attend the "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Thursday, April 18, 2013, for victims of Monday's Boston Marathon explosions.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama meets with Boston Athletic Association volunteers after attend the "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Thursday, April 18, 2013, for victims of Monday's Boston Marathon explosions.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Obama said yesterday the people of Boston and the United States 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 the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline,” Obama said 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 is good,” Obama said. “Our fidelity to a 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 keyed in on video images of two 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 Gov. Deval Patrick, who said that 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 for 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.”

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 yesterday, 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 whether the explosions that claimed three lives and left more than 170 wounded were inspired by al-Qaida, domestic politics or the twists of some deranged mind.

Obama’s challenge is “a more delicate balancing act” than simply remembering the dead, said Richard Falkenrath, President George W. Bush’s former counter-terrorism adviser.

“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.

After four mass shootings in his first term, with the last one claiming the lives of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, Obama has learned to lead the nation in collective mourning.

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.

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