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How Obama lit a fire under the Boston fightback

Things are different in America - still. Despite all the togetherness of the internet and super-easy air travel, you can even today be surprised (for good or ill) at what's going across the Atlantic. This blog, borrowing its title from the legendary Alistair Cooke, aims to keep you in the picture about things you might not otherwise know.

It was a horrific Monday in Boston, with the Marathon bombing compared - despite the obvious difference in scale - with 9/11 in New York.

The Obama message

Yet now on this emotionally- charged fifth day , there is a palpable difference in this grief-stricken city.

It's been brought about by the heroism of first responders dashing to the rescue, oblivious to the danger of another bomb; by Good Samaritans in the crowd doing so much, even collecting severed limbs of the injured; by the astonishing togetherness across America, with even the New York Yankees posting a Boston Red Sox logo on their stadium and playing the Red Sox anthem Sweet Caroline ; and finally by Obama, at a service in the city, bringing the congregation to its feet amid tumultuous applause with his ringing declaration:

"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 one hundred and eighteenth Boston marathon. Bet on it!’’ he thundered.

"Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again,” he said as applause grew. “You will run again.”

Obama, educated at Harvard, who shot to political prominence with a speech at a Democratic convention in Boston, delivered an outstanding speech again yesterday, reminding even cynical journalists, of the powers of his oratory.

This past week the planet has seen Boston portrayed, again and again , as a great world city.

Obama praised those who had rushed to aid the victims after the blasts, saying it sent a message to the attackers, whom he described as “these small stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.”

“This doesn’t stop us. And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us — to push, to not grow weary, to not get faint, even when it hurts. We finish the race.

"And we do that because of who we are and we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend, a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody’s there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick up.”

Obama said he had come to join people to “pray and mourn and measure our loss. We also come today to reaffirm that the spirit of this city is undaunted and the spirit of this country shall remain undimmed.”

“I’m here today on behalf of the American people with a simple message: Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city. Every one of us stands with you.”