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President Obama, Boston's mayor at service for marathon bomb victims

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive for an interfaith healing service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on Thursday for victims of Monday's Boston Marathon explosions. (April 18, 2013) Credit: AP

BOSTON - Victims of Monday's terror attack must know they are not alone, whether in a hospital bed slowly on the mend, or at home with raw, emotional scars, President Barack Obama told a packed church Thursday in a rousing call for solidarity to Bostonians and all Americans.

"As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you," Obama told an audience of nearly 2,000 inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the heart of Boston's historic South End.

"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, who was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, sat in the front pew listening to the words of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino before he rose to speak. Massachusett Gov. Deval Patrick, a close friend of the president, was at his side as well.

When it was his turn to speak, Obama told the audience of city leaders, Boston residents and runners in Monday's Boston Marathon that the city's resolve is "the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act. If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us . . . well, it should be clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it."

That appeal to Boston's toughness and resilience spurred a rousing cheer from the audience, which included 2012 GOP presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and past governors Jane Swift, William Weld and Michael Dukakis.

The interfaith service was titled "Healing Our City." Hundreds of people who could not squeeze into the historic Roman Catholic church gathered on the sidewalks out front to listen to the president and others reflect on Monday's bombing at the marathon.

Outside the church and across Boston and beyond, investigators continued the hunt Thursday for what authorities now believe are two young male bombing suspects. Images and videos of the pair, who investigators suspect set down the explosive mix of nails and ball bearings packed in pressure cookers, were released Thursday afternoon.

Marathoner Robert Wheeler, 23, of Marshfield, Mass., said he crossed the finish line about a minute before the first bomb blew up. He defiantly vowed to return to the race "every year, for the rest of my life."

Wheeler wore a Boston Marathon race jacket to the service. If someday he can no longer run the race, Wheeler said, he will still compete.

If he can't run any longer "I will walk it," Wheeler said. "If I cannot do that, I will go in a wheelchair."

Obama began his speech by reminding the audience of the Boston Marathon's historic splendor and place in the city's rich history. He talked of the city's "perfect state of grace." Monday morning "the sun rose over Boston," Obama said. "The sunlight glistened off the State House Dome."

Runners laced up their shoes and thousands lined Boston streets for the start of the race, Obama told the audience. Over at Fenway Park, he said, fans packed in to watch another Boston institution -- the Red Sox.

"It was a beautiful day to be in Boston," Obama said. " . . . And then in an instant, the day's beauty was shattered. A celebration became a tragedy. And so we come together to mourn and measure our loss. But we also come together to reclaim that state of grace, to reaffirm that the spirit of this city is undaunted and the spirit of the country shall remain undimmed."

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