Monday was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, celebrating the day the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It is also the day of the annual Boston Marathon, which will now, sadly, go down in history as yet another episode of senseless mass violence.
Martin Richard’s image has circled the globe since his murder that day. In it, the 8-year-old holds a sign he made that reads “No more hurting people. Peace.”
The Richard family was watching the marathon when the bomb went off. His mother, Denise, and his sister, Jane, were seriously injured. His father, Bill, suffered shrapnel wounds. Martin’s older brother, Henry, was not harmed—at least, not physically.
Across the street from the blast, Carlos Arredondo and his wife, Melida, were watching from the bleachers. They were waiting for a member of the National Guard who was running the race in memory of Carlos’ son, Alex Arredondo, a U.S. Marine who was killed in the battle of Najaf, Iraq, in August 2004. Back then, immediately after he learned of his son’s death, Carlos got into his van and set fire to it. He survived, with massive burns, then dedicated himself to peace activism, traveling the U.S. with a flag-draped coffin in memory of his son. Seven years after they lost Alex, in 2011, his younger son, Brian, who became depressed after Alex’s death, committed suicide.
At the marathon, Carlos, who is originally from Costa Rica, was wearing a big cowboy hat, and images of his fearless race to rescue people after the explosions also have gone global.
Within seconds, the lives of these two individuals, Martin Richard and Carlos Arredondo, from neighborhoods of Boston not far from each other, were thrust onto the world stage. Martin, a child tragically killed by an IED, and Carlos, a father who lost two sons as a consequence of the war in Iraq. I asked Carlos to recount those minutes after the marathon blasts:
“Everybody was on the ground. There was broken limbs, people with no limbs, people totally passed out, so many injuries today. I never see in my life like this. You know, it was a very, very horrible moment in that particular moment there. People was running. And a lot of people was really doing a great job in handling the best we could at the time ... it took really few minutes to understand that this was a IED explosion. And my first reaction, being a volunteer for the Red Cross, and my first reaction was to just go, you know, and do my duty. So many people was doing the same thing—police officers, National Guards, people from the stands, veterans. You know, everybody just got together ... we didn’t know if it was a third bomb waiting for anybody there, you know, but everybody removed the fence by their hands and pushed everything around.”
Carlos focused on Jeff Bauman Jr., who had severe wounds to both legs: “I ripped up a T-shirt, and another gentleman helped me out, and we put this tourniquet on the legs. And then the first wheelchair that arrived, you know, I picked him up and put him in the wheelchair, and I dragged him out of there.”
All the vast medical expertise in the many hospitals of Boston could not save Martin Richard. His 7-year-old sister, who loves to dance, lost a leg, and his mother, Denise, suffered severe trauma to the head. Denise is the librarian at the children’s school, the Neighborhood House Charter School, as well as an active member of a community organization. Bill has long been a respected activist in the community, helping to revitalize the area.
Seven years ago, on another Patriots’ Day, after the Boston Marathon, I was in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall with the late famed historian Howard Zinn. The night was cold and rainy. It was April 16, 2007. News was coming in about a massacre in Blacksburg, Va., on the campus of Virginia Tech. Thirty-two people were killed that day, plus the shooter, who took his own life. This week, as the final mile, mile 26, of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the 26 people killed in Newtown, Conn., even the most basic compromise element of gun-control legislation, a watered-down amendment on background checks, has failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The first blast in Boston occurred behind a line of fluttering flags from around the world, reflecting the international stature of the oldest annual marathon in the country—flags that reminded me once again of the words of Howard Zinn: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.