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Kevin Cullen

Coming face to face with them

If the Oak Long Bar at the Fairmont Copley Plaza isn’t the most beautiful room in the city, it’s pretty dang close.

It has retained the ­duende of the old Oak Room, where the great Dave McKenna used to play Ellington on the ivories so well that you would have sworn Sir Duke came back to life. It is an architectural wonder, blending old and new, its classic carved ceiling enhanced by a modern coppertop bar and plush leather chairs.

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I sat in what we used to call the Oak Room at what we used to call the Copley Plaza and watched, with other Bostonians, the images of the two young men who are suspected of ripping this old town apart.

The operative word is young.

“They’re kids,” the lady sitting next to me, Celeste, an administrator at Partners Health, said as she stared at the TV, shaking her head. “They’re just kids.”

It was striking, and maybe a measure of a Belvedere unfiltered vodka Martini costing $18, that no one in the old Oak Room yelled at the screen. Like my new best friend Celeste, they craned their necks, narrowed their eyes, and asked themselves: Have I seen these kids before?

I’m guessing the reaction at the Eire Pub in Dorchester — where half the regulars know the Richard family and feel the slaying of 8-year-old Martin, the maiming of 6-year-old Janey, and the wounding of their mother Denise at a different level than the rest of us — was less restrained.

The guy sitting to my left at the Oak Long Bar was a 25-year-old kid from ­Dorchester named Chris Combs. He was most interested in the images of the two men released by the FBI on Thursday ­because those two guys, if they’re the ones, almost killed him.

Chris Combs was standing in front of the Forum restaurant about a half hour before that black backpack with the pressure cooker filled with ball bearings and nails was placed down on the sidewalk.

“I did my business at Forum, and the people there are great, and then I moved on,” Chris Combs said.

He works for Kahlua and moved further down Boylston Street, to the Irish bar called Lir, to do his business there. He was standing at the bar, talking to clients, when he heard the first boom, from a backpack in front of Marathon Sports. Twelve seconds later, he heard the second boom, from the backpack in front of the place where he had just been standing.

“It is weird,” he said, “when you realize how close you come to something like that. I think about all the people hurt and the people who died, that little boy. His family lives a couple of miles away from me. I’m not even thinking of these guys in the ­photos. I’m thinking of the Richard family. I’m thinking of that poor girl from Arlington. I’m thinking of that Chinese girl who was studying at BU. That’s who I’m thinking of.”

President Obama’s words at the ­Cathedral of the Holy Cross, earlier in the day, framed Chris Combs’s thoughts. ­Because those words were not focused on vengeance. They were not violent words. They were words that honored the memory of Martin Richard, of Krystle Campbell, of Lingzi Lu.

Obama’s buddy, our governor, Deval Patrick, put it well. He spoke of accountability without vengeance, of vigilance without fear.

We can’t lower ourselves.

That’s how we honor Martin and Krystle and Lingzi.

After the image of the suspected bombers flashed across the screen for the 100th time, the bartender turned the Red Sox game on, and that seemed right, because we can’t let murderers monopolize our ­attention.

Dustin Pedroia took a borderline third strike, and we moaned.

And then I remembered that Martin Richard loved Dustin Pedroia and that Pedey is a good guy with a good heart who would have given anything to meet a boy who because of inexplicable hatred will never grow old.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ­cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
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