Armed with few answers, President Obama on Thursday looked to comfort both Boston and the nation, telling the victims of bombings in the heart of New England: "You will run again."
Obama traveled to the Massachusetts capital just days after a pair of explosions Monday killed three and injured more than 170 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Just hours before the FBI launched a national manhunt for two male suspects, the president said the grief-stricken city would stand firm in the face of violence.
"At 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," Obama said to an extended standing ovation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "Bet on it."
For Obama, it was an all-too-familiar scene. Just as he did after mass shootings at Fort Hood, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; or, more recently, Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., Obama looked to comfort and rally the nation in the face of indescribable evil. But Obama's trek to the Bay State presented an entirely new challenge, not only as consoler-in-chief, but in trying to turn the page on a tragedy in which the suspects were still at-large.
"Yes, we will find you," Obama said, addressing the suspects to a crescendo of cheers. "And, yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable."
Hours after the president spoke, the FBI for the first time released photos and video of two suspects wanted in connection with the bombings.
Some in the audience sported bright yellow jackets from the Boston Marathon, a vivid reminder of the clouds of smoke near the historic finish line of the annual race. Obama's one-time presidential rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, looked on from the fourth row of the cathedral seating more than 2,000 people.
Obama twice repeated the words that 8-year-old victim Martin Richard once wrote on a poster board: "No more hurting people. Peace."
And Obama recounted his own personal history with Boston, a city that essentially launched his political career. At 2004's Democratic National Convention -- in Boston -- Obama went from a little-known Illinois state senator to a rising liberal star.
After his speech, the president met privately with victims of the bombings, their families and the first responders who aided them.
"All of you displayed the very best of the American spirit," the president said. "And when we see that kind of spirit, there's something about that that's infectious. It makes us all want to be better people."
The policy implications of the bombings remain hazy for the White House and the broader U.S. counterterrorism community, which have been trying to determine whether the attack was the work of a lone wolf or an organized terrorist group.
But in Boston, the focus was on healing.
"Nothing will take us down because we take care of one another," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. "Even with the smell of smoke in the air and blood in the streets and tears in our eyes, we triumphed over that hateful act."