CAPITOL HILL — Just days before the first anniversary of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing attacks, a congressional panel invited several Boston area law enforcement officials to reflect on their response and discuss ways for other communities to prepare for potential tragedies.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers were united in praising Boston's response to the unexpected events that unfolded a year ago. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul had emotional praise for the neighboring Boston and Watertown Police Departments.
The Boston area was the scene of days of dramatic events after the marathon bombing, as brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev engaged in a deadly gun battle with police, which resulted in the death of Tamerlan, and a prolonged manhunt for Dzhokhar.
During a hearing Wednesday, McCaul pointed out the brothers had allegedly planned to go to New York City next.
"These terrorists has six more bombs in their car and they were on their way to Times Square," said McCaul. "If it was not for these heroic acts of bravery, New York City could have been hit again."
Democratic Representative Loretta Sanchez pointed out there is an ongoing investigation, and urged caution at the hearing not to interfere with the prosecution of Dzhokhar, who will go on trial November 3, facing the death penalty.
"You know Attorney General [Eric] Holder's decision to seek the death penalty is a game changer," she said.
Former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said the people of Boston are still united in the feeling of "Boston Strong," and many are preparing to run in this year's marathon to honor those who died least year.
"And we run for the men and women and children who can no be there this year, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard and Officer Sean Colliert," he said.
Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau said he is entering the race.
"This year I will run with 12 of my officers. It is going to be an emotional day for my officers as we run that route and cross the finish line on Boylston Street," he said.
Harvard University Professor Dutch Leonard said it is no accident Boston area police and other first responders did such an excellent job. He said one year earlier police and medical personnel held a training exercise mimicking a multiple-front attack.
"Any community can engage in joint planning and execution for any major fixed event," he said. "Paying your dues on good days builds the infrastructure of inter-agency familiarity, respect and trust, and has an immediate payoff. And if a bad day ever comes, as it did in Boston, that infrastructure is literally a lifesaver."
Several lawmakers said that local law enforcement plays a crucial role in responding to terrorist and other attacks, and federal agents should share information with them.