As Boston grappled with the horror that ripped through its marathon, nowhere was the shock felt more acutely than in the city’s Dorchester section, home to Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy killed in the twin blasts, and described by neighbours as joyful and giving.
He was standing with his family close to the finishing line on Monday afternoon when the first of the two bombs went off. Officials have confirmed that his younger sister, Jane, lost a leg in the blast and remains in critical condition as does his mother, Denise, who has suffered a brain injury.
Meanwhile, it emerged that another child, 11-year-old Aaron Hern, of Martinez, California, was hurt after being struck by flying shrapnel in his thigh. Aaron, who is now being treated at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, was waiting to watch his mother cross the finishing line.
Another family to have been hit especially hard by the tragedy were the relatives of J P and Paul Norden, two brothers who each reportedly lost a leg in the explosions.
The 31- and 33-year-olds were separated in the confusion and were raced to different hospitals. Their mother, Liz Norden, told the Boston Globe that she received a call from Paul when he was on the way to the hospital. “Ma, I’m hurt real bad,” he said. The men, both roofers recently laid off from their jobs, had gone to the race to cheer on a friend.
For the Richard family, the marathon was a highlight of the year. The father, Bill Richard, is a keen runner and would usually participate but was forced on to the sidelines by an injury, according to Stephen Lynch, a US congressman and a family friend. “They were looking in the crowd as the runners were coming to see if they could identify some of their friends when the bomb hit,” he said.
The poignancy of another child being murdered just weeks after the Newtown School massacre that saw 20 young pupils killed was underscored by a picture of Martin posted on Facebook by a friend of his former teacher. It shows him smiling and holding aloft a painting with the message “No more hurting people. Peace”. He had drawn it during a lesson last April about the killing in Florida of Trayvon Martin.
“What a gift. To know him was to love him,” said another family friend Judy Tuttle. “He had that million-dollar smile and you never knew what was going to come out of him. Denise is the most spectacular mother that you’ve ever met and Bill is a pillar of the community. It doesn’t get any better than these people.”
Martin played flag football and was a proud member of the Savin Hill Little League team, neighbours said. Opening Day for the league, including a parade, was scheduled for next week. Savin Hill Little League president Tony King remembered Martin as a “very mature eight-year-old” and “a very, very much loved little kid”.
Bill Richard was released from hospital after being treated briefly and was seen by neighbours returning to his Dorchester home on Monday evening. Yesterday, well-wishers placed a candle on the home’s front porch with “Peace” written in chalk.
Bill Richard is known in the neighbourhood, dotted with detached 19th-century homes for his volunteer work on a local environmental committee. Denise Richard had worked as a librarian in the school attended by her three children. Their eldest child, a son, was unhurt in the explosions.