Boston Marathon Explosion

04.17.13

A Boston Child Is Cut Down by an Attacker’s Bomb

Eight-year-old Martin Richard was a symbol of young enthusiasm. Michael Daly asks, why is he dead today?

All day on Tuesday, the hands of the four-faced clock in Peabody Square remained frozen, at just a shade past 2:50, stopped by a sympathetic soul to mark the time of the bombing and the murder of a little boy.

He was 8-year-old Martin Richard, who had walked past the clock on countless occasions with mother and father, sister and brother.

“We see them all the time,” said a firefighter, stationed at Engine 8/Ladder 6, housed in a firehouse at the edge of Peabody Square.

In a further tribute to Martin and the two other dead from the bombing, black bunting was draped on the railing, ringing the 15-foot clock. The boy’s mother, Denise, and his 7-year-old sister, Jane, had been seriously injured in the Monday bombing. Jane, a tomboy who had won a kid’s race the day before the marathon, lost a leg. She might have lost her life were it not for the immediate assistance from first responders.

A plaque affixed to the clock’s base attests to triumph rather than tragedy, noting that the restoration of this 1908 Victorian timepiece, along with the surrounding square, was made possible by the people of this section of Dorchester, who had taken it upon themselves to revitalize this neighborhood that was once home to John F. Kennedy's mother and grandparents.

Martin’s father, Bill Richard, is credited as a driving force behind reviving the square, complete with restaurants, offices, and even a new train station. He has been joined in this effort by his wife, who is also the librarian at the nearby Neighborhood House Charter School.

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Mourners at a candlelight vigil for Martin Richard sing "God Bless America."

The 8-year-old Martin was the victim of two bombs filled with shrapnel and placed in the crowd of spectators, killing three and injuring more than 170. The perpetrators are said to have fashioned at least one of the bombs inside a six-liter pressure cooker filled with explosives and bits of metal.

“Carpenter nails,” one emergency-room doctor remarked after extracting them from victim after victim.

A recipe for a pressure-cooker device was contained in a 2010 edition of the al Qaeda online magazine Inspire, complete with instructions to glue the shrapnel to inside walls.

“How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” the headline read.

On Monday, the Richards set off to see the marathon, as they did every year.

Investigators still have no prime suspect. The FBI was enlisting the public to help break the case.

“Somebody knows who did this,” said Richard DesLauriers of the FBI.

Even the motive was unclear beyond killing as many people as possible. Only the number of victims mattered. Nobody was targeted in particular. Fate just happened to strike the Richard family in the way it too often seems to claim the best of us.

The kitchen of Martin Richard’s mom was a place of Irish song and laughter and all that killers hate. The kids played ball and hockey out back and rode bikes out front, with Jane trying so hard to be like Martin. The whole family was always volunteering for something that made the neighborhood a little better: clean-ups, benefit cookouts, Little League.

On Monday, the Richards set off as the happiest of families to see the marathon, as they did every year. They chose to watch at the finish line, but not just to see the champions. They were still cheering runners who were more than 17,000 from first place.

Then, four hours, nine minutes and 43 seconds into the race by the clock at the finish line, a bomb went off, followed by a second.

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Neighbors hug outside the home of the Richard family in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston on April 16, 2013. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

“My dear son Martin has died from injuries sustained in the attack on Boston,” Bill Richard said in a statement on Tuesday. “My wife and daughter are both recovering from serious injuries. We thank our family and friends, those we know and those we have never met, for their thoughts and prayers.”

The head of the school where the mother is librarian and Martin was a student said in a statement of his own that the boy “had big dreams and high hopes.”

Among the photos that appeared in the media was one taken last April that shows Martin holding a poster he made at school that reads “Stop Hurting People” and the word “Peace.” A photo from May shows him smiling outside St. Ann’s Church in a white suit on the day of his First Communion.

Now the pastor there is preparing for the boy’s funeral. A neighbor knew just what to do when he picked up a piece of chalk the Richard children had left behind on Sunday when they were making sidewalk drawings of a flower and butterflies in front of their home.

“PEACE,” the neighbor now wrote in big letters.

Bill Richard had come by the house for a few minutes the night of the bombing, but had no doubt gone back to the hospital to be with his wife and daughter. Neighbors came by with flowers and stuffed animals, leaving them on the front porch. Nine-year-old twins, Alejandro and Andres Cadero, who had played on the Stars soccer team with Martin, appeared with a ball on which they had written “In Loving Memory.”

“Even when we lose he was always one of the biggest stars on the team,” the twin's father, José Cadero, said.

Wilel Daniel brought flowers with her daughters, 3-year-old Taryn and 8-year-old Camryn, who was in school with Martin.

“She knows him, she doesn’t want to talk about it,” Daniel said of her older girl before anybody could ask.

Daniel was accompanied by Guerline Guillaume, who has three sons at the school. She spoke of Martin.

“He’s very sweet,” she said, “He respect everyone … It's hard to believe he go so soon.”

Guillaume said of Martin’s mother, “She’s also a sweet person. She love to be around the kids.”

Guillaume encountered some of Martin’s other schoolmates up the block.

“How are you guys doing?” she asked. “If you need to talk, talk to mom or dad.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the four-faced clock up in the square was precisely right, at just a shade past 2:50 p.m. And it seemed at that instant as if everything else should at least pause to mark the passing exactly 24 hours before of young Martin and the maiming of his mother and sister.

But in the next instant, all the other timepieces ticked on into the first of the sunny afternoons the boy will never see. The wind stirred the flag that flew at half staff outside the firehouse where the firefighters had so often watched the Richard family pass by in such happy unity.

“I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin,” the father said in his statement.