Story of the Year: A heart-breaking loss triggers a spirited response
By Bill Forry, special to the BIR, January 2, 2014
The year’s most indelible images, memories and emotions for the city — and certainly for Dorchester at-large— are connected to the April 15th terror attack on spectators and participants at the Boston Marathon. The bombings killed three and wounded hundreds more and the aftershocks of the two devices rippled across the nation and globe. But the epicenter of grief, in many respects, was here in our backyard, where the Richard family mourned the loss of their younger son, Martin, age 8, who was killed at the scene, while at once coping with grievous injuries to other family members, including Jane, age 7, who lost her leg.
The atrocity visited upon the Richard family made the assault on the city all-the-more personal for the entire neighborhood. Thousands poured into Neponset’s Garvey Park for a hastily-organized prayer vigil on the day after the attack. Candles flickered inside paper cups supplied to mourners, many of whom shared classes or sports jerseys with young Martin and his siblings.
“It’s just heart wrenching you know?” said Maria Del Tufo, 47. It’s hard to fathom that it happened in the first place, but when it’s somebody in your neighborhood, and your hometown. And such a little boy that is so full of life and so happy.”
In the days and weeks to come, the overarching sentiment of the collective response was one of respectful solidarity. The Richard family requested and received privacy. Neighbors raised funds, created heartfelt memorials, including a pitch-perfect Peabody Square ceremony in which the historic clock was stopped and then re-started a week later in honor of young Martin.
When the Richard family convened a memorial Mass at St. Ann church in June, the event was closed to the press but overflowed with familiar faces. Poignant remarks from Martin’s dad Bill Richard heartened the resolve of the community that this family would carry on. The Richards later greeted a throng of mourners who waited in a long line to greet them at the schoolhouse next door.
The family later shared images and details of Jane’s progress through the year as she took her first tentative steps again on an artificial limb fashioned for her at Dorchester’s United Prosthetics. Thrust into the international spotlight under the worst imaginable circumstances, the Richard family responded with grace, dignity and determination that continue to inspire this community.
– BILL FORRY