April 15 2013. It’s Tax Day in the United States. Not really a favorite day in the country. But in Boston Massachusetts it’s Patriots Day and the entire state of Massachusetts celebrates a state holiday with pride, as the state that is the home of the American Revolution. It’s the Boston Marathon, the oldest continuous Marathon in the world. It’s “The Big Daddy” of all Marathons. It’s the Red Sox kicking off the day at home. It’s famous Boylston Street, the 5th Avenue of Boston. It’s Newbury Street with its fashionable bars and shops. It’s 27,000 runners and thousands more watching and cheering the runners on giving their support. 26 miles and each mile dedicated to the 26 people murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut just several months earlier. Many of the runners are raising money for charity. It’s a beautiful spring day of celebration and the finish line is just up ahead, a few blocks from the Berklee College of Music where I went to school. It’s Copley Square. I know the neighborhood well. It’s human beings at their best. And suddenly it’s a horrific battle scene as two bombs go off within seconds of each other killing 3 people, and severely injuring 170 others.
Bill Richard from Dorchester, was running. His family was there to see him cross the finish line. As he approached the finish line, his son Martin, 8 years old, ran to give him a hug. His 6 year old sister followed along with his wife Denise. The blast of the bomb killed little Martin. His sister lost a leg, and Denise suffered brain injuries. And Bill Richard went home that night, alone. He had run the Boston Marathon. Now he faces a lifetime of agonizing grief.
There is little doubt that he will second guess his decision to run the marathon. He’ll tell himself, that if only he hadn’t done it, his life wouldn’t have been destroyed and he will blame himself. That’s how grief works. Of course it has nothing to do with his decision to run. He could have taken the family to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game, and the very same thing could have happened there. In fact, this kind of thing could happen at any time and any place, and Bill would tell himself…if only. It’s how we rationalize what happened. It’s an act of terrorism and it strikes at any time and any place, and doesn’t care who falls and how it impacts their lives. Terrorists demand to be heard regardless of the consequences and agony they inflict on the innocents. Their ideology is more important than life itself. Life is expendable to the ideology.
There is no way to erase this from his mind, and convince him that this had nothing to do with him and that it’s just his mind hard at work looking for a way to make sense out of the actions of a maniac. The mind will look for a rational explanation and a grieving parent will always point blame at himself. His son is gone forever. His daughter’s lost leg will be a reminder of that horrific day for the rest of his life, and his wife’s injuries will only add to the agony of what he’ll deal with from now on.
We don’t yet know if this was the actions of foreign or domestic terrorists. Until we know who did this, we can only deal with the reality of the moment. That’s Bill Richard’s reality. Knowing who was responsible for this may help keep him from torturing himself. In grief, we always look for answers. Until we get some answers, we look at ourselves. What could we have done differently?
My heart goes out to Bill. He’s enduring unimaginable torture right now, and it’s just beginning. As the shock wears off, the reality sinks in, and a life of agonizing pain is what he has to look forward to.
No amount of education or religious training can prepare us for the magnitude of this kind of agony. In most instances, we deal with our loss and although you never get “over” it, time has a way of helping us get through it. In Bills case, the injuries to his wife and daughter will block that process and make it more difficult than we can imagine. The lasting images are seared into his brain and leave an indelible scar that will never go away. The last thing this man needs is platitudes. If even one person says, “I know how you must feel”, they should be ashamed. They can’t know how he feels. They never walked in his shoes. Having lost a child myself, I can’t begin to know how this man might feel or how he’ll cope. It demands that we look for strength that we never had to summon at any other point in our lives. In Bill Richard’s life, that burden is more than then anyone should have to bear.
I wish that I could offer words of advice, or something to help ease his pain. But what can I say? There are no words. So I write this just to get it out, and ease my own sadness for another man’s pain. I can only hope that Bill understands that while he probably feels more alone than he’s ever felt in his life, our hearts and prayers go out to him.
"No more hurting people. Peace." - Martin Richard