The people of Boston, and of the country as a whole, needed some uplift Thursday morning. Families of those killed in Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon had only begun to mourn them; those maimed were only beginning to confront their losses.
In the hours before the memorial service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the South End teemed with police officers from as far as Taunton and Woburn and Framingham. Near the cathedral, MBTA buses and at least one city dump truck were arranged as barriers against would-be attackers. Yet inside, the memorial service reflected the same outpouring of warmth that Bostonians have seen with their own eyes. A broad sense of compassion was evident in the remarks of Mayor Menino, who declared, after struggling out of a wheelchair to speak on a broken leg, that “love has covered this resilient city.” Likewise, Governor Patrick praised those who “let their first instinct be kindness.” President Obama, too, forcefully and elegantly echoed the same theme.
Tellingly, Obama chose not to play up the villainy of the Marathon bombers, but to minimize their stature — calling them “small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important.”
Of course, this week’s repeated praise for Bostonians’ flinty immovability carries some risk of casting everyone in overly broad terms. But the outside support is welcome. All residents can look for comfort in the Boston city flag flying at New York’s city hall, in the singing of Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline” at Yankee Stadium, and in a presidential speech suffused with allusions to a road race. All these gestures have a deeper meaning: We’re all more alike than we are different. And, as Obama put it, “just when we think we’ve hit a wall” — marathoners’ term for running out of energy and will — “someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up.”