It’s been five years since the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured hundreds.
One of the victims, 8-year-old Martin Richard, was standing at the marathon finish line cheering on the runners with his family when the second bomb detonated on April 15, 2013. Martin was killed; his sister Jane, an Irish dancer, lost her leg; their mother, Denise, suffered brain injuries and blindness in one eye from shrapnel; their father, Bill, lost some of his hearing.
In the weeks following the bombing, a widely circulated photo showed Martin holding a poster he'd made the year before with the message: "No more hurting people — peace."
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Since the attack, the Richard family have embodied that message of peace and kindness despite the overwhelming tragedy they have had to endure.
Remembering Martin ❤— Team MR8 (@TeamMR8) April 15, 2018
June 9, 2004 - April 15, 2013 pic.twitter.com/iCouol55CZ
In 2014, the family announced a charitable foundation in Martin’s honor. The mission of the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation is “to honor Martin’s message of ‘No more hurting people – peace’ by investing in education, athletics and community.”
“This foundation will be a legacy for Martin, allowing us to ‘pay it forward’ and make a difference in ways that would make him proud but also be a source of healing and purpose for us.”
Bill and Denise astonished many people when they asked that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the terrorist responsible for killing their son, be spared the death penalty, if only so their family wouldn't have to relive the tragedy through future appeals proceedings.
Last year they opened Martin’s Park, a wheelchair accessible playground near the Boston Children’s Museum.
At the park’s groundbreaking ceremony, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said, “This park and all it stands for and represents, and the Martin Richard Foundation, and the Richard family, are about taking–perhaps the darkest and most terrible and horrific experience anybody could possibly imagine and finding light and hope and positivity and a future on which you can build something beautiful out of it. ”
For the five year anniversary of the bombings, Denise Richard wrote a piece for the Boston Globe on the importance of paying kindness forward.
“Perhaps we rely on the notion that we need life altering situations to make kindness matter. Kindness need not be displayed in random acts but with intent and purpose. Kindness is a vital part of the effort to foster a peaceful and just region, nation, and global community. Kindness supports human dignity and should be shared freely — neighbor to neighbor, block by block, until everyone is recognized as equal. Kindness is not boastful," she writes.
She says the Martin Richard Foundation “is a movement helping young people to learn, grow, and lead through volunteerism and community engagement. We look to advance sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness, and peace. By encouraging people to choose kindness, work for inclusion, and embrace diversity in local communities, we aim to influence a generation to build bridges of cultural understanding and deepen community and neighborhood connections.
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“We challenge you to ‘Do More and Serve With Us.’ Our campaign invites people of all ages, abilities, religions, and ethnicities to get excited about volunteerism.”
She concludes: "It is a fitting tribute to Martin that his Foundation focuses on the belief of giving oneself to friends, family, and community as it is a concept that he embraced at a young age in his school, parish, and neighborhood association. Young and old are remarkable as individuals and even more so when united in a movement. Join our movement. Choose kindness. Build bridges. Do more.”
Five years after an evil act caused them untold devastation, the Richard family have courageously turned grief into hope and generosity for their community. An example for us all.