Pres. Obama at Boston service: Our spirit remains undaunted
By Michael Pearson and Faith Karimi
(CNN) — President Barack Obama traveled to Boston on Thursday, three days after the bombings at the famed marathon to reassure the city and the nation that their spirit remains strong.
“Everyone of us stands with you,” the president said at an interfaith service inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. “Boston may be your hometown — but we claim it, too.
“Boston, you’re my home,” Obama said. “For millions of us what happened on Monday is personal.”
He added, “We come together to pray and mourn and measure our loss. But we also come together today to reclaim that state of grace — to reaffirm that the spirit of this city is undaunted and the spirit of this country shall remain undimmed.”
Other dignitaries attending the service included the first lady Michelle Obama; the president’s former election rival, Mitt Romney; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. During an interlude, attendees were soothed by a performance by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. About 2,000 people filled the ornate cathedral, The Boston Globe reported, with about half the seats reserved for the public.
Under heavy security, the audience also included scores of police officers and other first responders. Later, Obama was to meet with families of victims and first responders to the bombings, administration spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, investigators were combing through surveillance video dating to at least a week before the bombings to try to identify anyone who walked the finish-line route before the race, said a source who receives regular updates on the investigation. Authorities were working around-the-clock work to identify two men that a law enforcement source said are pictured in images captured before the blast — not far from the race’s finish line, one of them lugging a black backpack.
It was in such a backpack that investigators believe the bomber or bombers placed explosive devices that killed three and wounded more than 180 Monday toward the end of the Boston Marathon.
“Every hour we’re closer,” Patrick said on Wednesday. “And I say that because we’ve got the very best professionals at every level working this. And working it hard.”
At Thursday’s service, Boston’s mayor praised each of the three bystanders who were killed in the blasts — Martin Richard, described as a “young boy with a big heart”; Krystle Campbell, whose spirit “brought her to the marathon year after year”; and Lingzu Lu, who “came to the city in search of an education.”
On Wednesday, a law enforcement official who is being regularly briefed on the investigation said images showing two men near the marathon finish line were being circulated to state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The photographs are not being released to the public for fear of impeding the investigation, the source said.
The source described the men as “possible suspects.”
In the images, the source said, one of the men is seen carrying a black backpack.
Asked about the images at a congressional hearing Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged caution.
“There is some video that has raised the question of those that the FBI would like to speak with,” she said. “I wouldn’t characterize them as suspects under the technical term. But we need the public’s help in locating these individuals.”
She said the investigation is “proceeding apace.”
But she said, “This is not an ‘NCIS’ episode. Sometimes you have to take time to properly put the chain together to identify the perpetrators, but everyone is committed to seeing that that gets done in the right way.”
Earlier Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the investigation identified a man as a possible suspect in the attack but did not name him.
Seen on a video, the man wore a white baseball cap. One of the sources added that the cap was on backward and the man was also wearing a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and a black jacket.
It was not immediately clear if he is one of those alluded to in the photographs distributed to law enforcement officials.
The reports came after a chaotic day in which some law enforcement sources initially told media outlets that a suspect had been arrested, only to have the FBI and Boston police issue formal denials that any suspect was in custody.
Patrick urged patience to allow investigators space to do their job.
“I wish they had nailed the perpetrator within minutes of this catastrophe, but I understand from experience it’s going to take some time,” he said.
Details of bombs
Investigators say the bombs, which exploded 12 seconds apart, were designed to deliver the most vicious suffering.
One was housed in a pressure cooker hidden inside a backpack, the FBI said. The device also had fragments that may have included nails, BBs and ball bearings, the agency said.
The second bomb was in a metal container, but it was unclear whether it was in a pressure cooker as well, the FBI said.
Photos show the remains of a pressure cooker found at the scene, along with a shredded black backpack and what appear to be metal pellets or ball bearings.
They were sent to the FBI’s national laboratory in Virginia, where technicians will try to reconstruct the devices.
In the past, the U.S. government has warned federal agencies that terrorists could turn pressure cookers into bombs by packing them with explosives and shrapnel, and detonating them with blasting caps.
While the clues moved the investigation forward, it is still unclear whether the attack was an act of domestic or foreign terrorism.
Authorities sifted through thousands of pieces of evidence and a mass of digital photos and video clips. They have pleaded for the public’s help in providing additional leads and images.
More than 60 people remained hospitalized Wednesday night in Boston-area medical centers, 13 of them in critical condition, according to hospital officials.
Three people died:
- Richard, the 8-year-old boy with a gap-tooth grin and bright eyes. He loved to run and play in his yard.
- Campbell, a 29-year-old freckle-faced woman described by her mother as having “a heart of gold.”
- Lu, the Chinese graduate student at Boston University who had moved to the city last fall, making friends and soaking up new experiences.
The U.S. State Department has been in contact with her family and the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement released Thursday.
“We stand ready to provide whatever appropriate assistance we can to the family members of foreign nationals in the aftermath of this despicable act of terror,” Kerry said.
CNN’s Tom Watkins, Susan Candiotti, Henry Hanks, Fran Townsend, Matt Smith, Dave Alsup, Henry Hanks, Rande Iaboni, Gloria Borger and John King contributed to this report.