Obama calls Boston Marathon bombing “act of terrorism” as FBI sets up hotline

McClatchy NewspapersApril 16, 2013 


President Barack Obama makes a statement on the progress of the investigation of the tragedy in Boston in the White House Press Briefing room on April 16, 2013, in Washington, D.C.


— Authorities are investigating the bombings at the Boston Marathon as an “act of terrorism,” said President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

“What we don’t yet know, however, was who carried out this attack or why, if it was carried out and planned by a terrorist organization domestic or international, or if it was the act of a malevolent individual,” Obama said in his remarks.

The president added, “We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice.”

Three people were killed and 176 people were wounded in the two blasts Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Family members have identified two of the dead as Krystle Campbell, 29, of Arlington, Mass., and Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester, Mass.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the explosives were made of 6-liter pressure cookers and packed with shards of metal and ball bearings.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that the FBI is spearheading a multi-agency investigation through the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force. “We will not rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice,” Holder said.

At a press conference in Boston earlier on Tuesday, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Richard DesLauriers said the bombings probe “will be a worldwide investigation” and that the agency is interviewing a “variety of witnesses.

Certified explosive experts and bomb sniffing dogs now are searching for clues at the scene, which could remain closed for several days, he said. The multi-block crime scene is "the most complex we’ve dealt with in the history of the department,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.

Davis asked to the public to share any photos taken at the time of the blasts, just before or just after.

A hotline has been established to collect tips, photos and video footage: 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick clarified at the press conference Tuesday that no unexploded devices have been found, despite some reports.

The governor told Boston residents to expect “heightened vigilance” in the city for the time being. Officials hope to hold an interfaith service on Wednesday, he said.

In Boston, the streets were an incongruous mix Tuesday: Runners in jeans and blue and yellow striped windbreakers walked around as Massachusetts National Guardsmen patrolled buildings wielding rifles. Near the finish line, the tents that had been used for the race had been commandeered for rescue operations.

Police sirens were constant. At some hotels, security checked guests for their room keys, citing the explosions. It was beautiful and sunny, and Boston Garden teemed with people as if it were any other day. The city’s Museum of Fine Arts tweeted this morning that it would be open for the day: "We hope to be a place of comfort and refuge for all in Boston,” it said.

At Boston Medical Center – which treated 23 patients from the bombings – comfort and refuge would be welcome. By Tuesday, just four had been discharged and 10 remained in critical condition, including a 5 year old boy.

Surgeons at the hospital described an array of grisly wounds, mostly below the torso, where the blast ripped through bodies, severing legs at the scene. More amputations were performed at the hospital where some patients lost both legs; others just one.

Doctors found “shrapnel like metal” in some of the wounds. Any evidence was turned over to authorities, said Andrew Ulrich, executive vice chair of the hospital’s emergency medical department.

The hospital had its own team of runners participating in the marathon and Ulrich said the hospital typically is on alert on Marathon Day – treating an occasional sprained ankle or dehydration. But, he said, Monday was lighter than usual, mostly because of the spectacular weather.

Then, just after 3, the ambulances arrived.

"We are used to a lot of chaos, but this was extraordinary," he said, noting that in minutes, 8 of the 10 “with very significant injuries” arrived. At one point, the hospital had 10 operating rooms running at the same time, performing with what Ulrich called "controlled chaos."

Doctors who had been running in the race – or watching – left to come to work.

Tracey Dechert, a trauma surgeon who had left the hospital at 11 a.m. Monday after arriving at work at 7 a.m. Sunday, returned, without hesitation. She had to park several blocks away because of the police presence and "ran down the street.”

Dechert performed a double amputation on one young woman.

“You can’t put into words how disturbing this is,” said Dechert, who noted as a trauma surgeon she’s accustomed to seeing gruesome accidents.

For many of the most severely injured, the process is just starting. They’ll need several more operations to recover, she said.

Social workers and other trauma specialists will be brought in to help the wounded, their families and the physicians who responded, officials said.

Peter Burke, the chief trauma surgeon, credited Boston’s ambulance system with successfully triaging the wounded at the scene and making certain that no hospital was overburdened by patients.

Doctors at several other Boston area hospitals also said Tuesday that they’d found what appeared to be ball bearings, nails or other shrapnel in the bodies of those wounded at the marathon, suggesting that the explosive devices might have been packed with debris in order to inflict the most damage.

Dr. Bill Mackey, chief of surgery at Tufts Medical Center, said doctors there removed small metallic shards from victims’ wounds. The fragments ranged in size from a centimeter to a few millimeters, Mackey said.

“One woman had a piece of a zipper embedded in her ankle joint, which is indicative of the force of the explosion,” he said.

Authorities asked for all foreign objects to be saved, cataloged with patients’ names and turned over to them, Mackey said.

The blasts occurred about 100 yards apart, close to the finishing line of the historic 26.2-mile race, on Boylston Street, which courses through a popular shopping and dining area of Boston known as Back Bay.

The first blast went off shortly before 2:50 p.m. Monday, about four hours into the race. It was quickly followed by the second. An estimated 9,000 of the 26,000 runners were still out on the course when the devices erupted in flaming gusts that twisted railings on the sidewalks into tangles of metal and wood that rescuers had to wrench into the street to reach casualties.

Some runners recovering from shock and trauma Tuesday expressed defiance in the face of the horror they’d witnessed.

Less than 24 hours after Ken Bereski finished his twelfth Boston marathon amid acrid smoke and unthinkable carnage, he pledged to return to the city a year from now to run his thirteenth.

“That was never in question,” said Bereski, a 32-year-old IT consultant from Miami’s South Beach. He crossed the finish line about five minutes before the first of two blasts went off.

“If you hide under your bed all day every day then what’s the point?” Bereski said. “I’m sure I’m going to try to figure out some way to do something in honor of the people who were killed, but there’s never any doubt for me that I’ll be back for number thirteen next year.”

He said several of his friends told him that as a result of what happened Monday, they intend to run the marathon next year by his side.

Bereski is an unregistered “bandit” marathoner who runs every race in full body paint. He had aimed to finish in four hours but beat his personal goal by about five minutes.

“Had I run the exact time I was targeting, I would have been right there when it happened,” he said. “I’m glad I found a little bit extra to get me there faster.”

He was milling around in the finish area, soaking up the atmosphere, when he heard the first explosion.

“I thankfully had my back turned, so I was right there but I was spared the real horrors of it,” Bereski said. At first he thought it was a celebratory cannon, but then a second bomb detonated and people started sprinting past him.

“I’ve run enough marathons to know that unless there’s something out of the ordinary, people don’t keep running after the finish line,” Bereski said. He heard hysterical people say they’d seen limbs flying off. “I didn’t look back, I just kept moving.”

In a telephone interview at the airport as he awaited a flight home to Florida, Bereski said he was amazed by the response of volunteers and first responders, who headed toward the danger and kept panic from turning into a stampede.

“It was really moving to see how everybody there was just doing every little thing they could to keep things together,” he said. “I’m more proud of Boston and the Boston Marathon now than I ever have been.”

Lesley Clark contributed reporting from Boston. Curtis Tate, Anita Kumar, Maria Recio, Beena Raghavendran, Greg Gordon, Michael Doyle and David Lightman of the Washington Bureau contributed. Also contributing were Anna Douglas of the Rock Hill Herald from Fort Mill, S.C.; Joey Holleman of The State from Columbia, S.C.; staff members of the Kansas City Star, the Wichita Eagle and the Miami Herald contributed.

Email: lwise@mcclatchydc.com, lclark@mcclatchydc.com, jlanday@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @lindsaywise, @lesleyclark, @jonathanlanday

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