President, first lady visit Boston hospitals to comfort families affected by the bombings

Boosting morale for a city in shock and mourning, President Obama went to Massachusetts General Hospital today to visit victims of the Boston Marathon terror bombings and their families and thank hospital staff for their efforts.

“He was extremely complimentary and I think, as he left those areas, people were thankful that he came. They were honored,” nurse Alice Gervasini said after the president’s visit.

She said people found the president “genuinely concerned.”

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“It would be hard not to say that everyone is clearly elated by the interaction,” she said.

Dr. David King, an MGH surgeon who ran the marathon and then went to the operating room to work on bomb victims, said the president was in private meetings with victims and their immediate families that staff didn’t attend. But he said that, standing outside the rooms, he could “see the smiles.”

He said he didn’t want to comment prematurely on the prospects of those being treated, “but all of our patients are improving every day.” He also said all the bombing victims at the hospital were “aware, awake, and able to interact” today.

The president also met with hundreds of race volunteers at Cathedral High School, telling them “how proud the whole country is of you” for displaying “the best of the American spirit” in reacting to the blasts.

The president went to the high school after delivering a powerful, uplifting speech at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which is next door to the school.

The president, joined by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, entered to cheers from the crowd, many of whom were clad in the marathon’s signature blue-and-yellow windbreakers.

Praising the volunteers for their selflessness, he said, “When we see that kind of spirit, there’s something about that that’s infectious,” according to a White House pool report.

Michelle Obama visited patients at Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, according to an official briefed on the trip

Three people were killed in two blasts seconds apart near the Marathon finish line at 2:50 p.m. Monday. More than 170 people were injured. A massive investigation is under way, but no arrests have been announced yet.

At the Brigham, hundreds of people waited inside and outside for several hours, after word leaked out that the first lady would be visiting.

Inside, from at least 11:30 a.m., a crowd of patients, their visitors, doctors and nurses waited until midafternoon in the Elaine and Gerald Schuster Lobby, at the Shattuck Street entrance to the hospital. A rumor had circulated that Michelle Obama would use that entrance, though she did not.

The crowd waited patiently and quietly, standing two and three deep on a stairway and second-floor walkway, stirring when two Everett police arrived with a black bomb-sniffing dog, which checked trash cans and other areas. Several nurses and doctors, clad in blue hospital gowns, took their break while waiting, eating fruit cups and sandwiches.

The crowd included about 40 people early, swelled to a few hundred by early afternoon, then dwindled after that.

Outside, several hundred more waited at the intersection of Binney and Francis streets, outside the hospital’s main entrance, among a heavy police presence.

Their wait was rewarded, but only briefly, when a motorcade went racing past, apparently with Michelle Obama inside. Then it was over.

Lois Rizzo of Framingham waited outside with her daughter and granddaughter. “It was great just being here, to see everyone together for the same reason,” she said.

“I thought it was awesome, really cool,” said granddaughter Julia Panell, 8.

The family was there to celebrate the birth of a new cousin, said Julia’s mom, Carla Panell of Wellesley, a poignant reminder for the family of joy amidst so much grief.

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