WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) – In an exclusive White House interview, President Barack Obama talked with WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes one year after the Boston Marathon bombings and shared his reflections on the victims, the survivors and the tragic event’s impact on him and the country.
Looking back on the attack, the president said what he most remembers in the aftermath is the strength that came through.
“What I always remember is ordinary citizens and the survivors and how full of grace they were,” the president said. “They were scared, they were shaken. Obviously the survivors with serious injuries knew what they were looking at in terms of recovery, but every single one of them that you met had a sense of humor, had a sense of resilience, had a sense that ‘we’re not going to be intimidated’.”
“You came away knowing that the city was going to be OK, and a year later that’s confirmed,” he added.
Asked what could be changed to improve communications between local law enforcement and the FBI to prevent or respond to events like the Boston Marathon bombings, Obama said there have been “vast improvements” since the 9/11 attacks but there is always room for improvement.
“It’s always a challenge because of our system of government, you’ve got federal, you’ve got state, you’ve got local,” he said. “It’s understandable I think that all of us want to say, ‘Could this have been prevented?’ The truth of the matter is that law enforcement at every level performed admirably. But you can always refine and improve what needs to be done.”
In the days after the attack and later during a White House visit, Obama spent time with the family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest victim killed in the bombings. Parents Bill and Denise were both injured by the bomb and Martin’s younger sister Jane lost a leg.
Obama shared his thoughts on meeting the Richards and his impressions of how they are dealing with the tragedy.
“When you talk to the parents, Bill and Denise, as a parent myself you just want to hug ‘em,” he said.
“To see how they have been strong more than anything for their daughter Jane, you immediately identify with that. It’s a parent’s greatest fear but the strength that they’ve shown knowing we’ve got another child here and we honor Martin’s memory by making sure that we’re there for Jane, that was inspiring.”
The president said Jane and first lady Michelle Obama really hit it off during the family’s visit.
“We had a great time here and she just lit up the room,” he recalled.
Obama remarked that the country could take some lessons from the attacks and from the marathon itself.
“Part of what makes the marathon such a great event is it draws from all walks of life,” he said. “You’ve got every country represented practically. You’ve got every social strata represented, every race, every religion. People come together and it’s one big family. Not everybody’s a world-class athlete but everybody understands if I put in effort then this is a goal that I can accomplish.”
“When that’s shattered by an evil event like this, I think it reminds all of us that terrible things happen,” Obama said. “But it also reminds us when terrible things happen we have to come together. And the courage that was on display and the resilience that was on display in the city I think made it very personal for people all across the country.”
The president said the attack in Boston was very personal for him, having come to know the city as a law student at Harvard and working in a White House “full of Bostonians.”
“It’s a city that I love, that I spend a lot of time in, that’s been very kind to me,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and supporters there, law professors and buddies going from way back and a lot of them go to the marathon, a lot of them run in the marathon.”
But he said the impact goes beyond his Boston connections.
“It was also personal because a child like Martin could be my child,” the president said.
Asked what message he had for Bostonians and those visiting for the marathon this year, the president said he wanted to say how proud he is of the city.
“For the whole city, not just to have survived that terrible tragedy a year ago but more importantly to come together to look after each other, to insist that Boston Strong is going to be there and that nobody is going to intimidate them. It really just brought out the spirit of a great American city.
“To everybody who’s running, I want to make sure that they know we are all rooting for them,” Obama said. “To the survivors of what happened … you’re an inspiration to all of us.”
See the full interview here:
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