A caring Boston Irish cop who kept vigil over the lifeless body of a neighbor’s child, Martin Richard the 8-year-old marathon bombing victim, told his heart rending story for the first time this week to Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis.
Captain Frank Armstrong was the the BPD captain in charge of Area E-18 in Hyde Park where the dreadful bombing happened last April.
The Armstrongs and Richards lives just five blocks from each other and Armstrong keeps a picture of the young boy on the wall in his office.
For 12 hours Frank Armstrong led the group of Boston police officers who stood watch over the bodies of Martin Richard and Boston University student Lingzi Lu.
The area had been cordoned off as a crime scene and the bodies could not be moved. Armstrong and his fellow officers used white tablecloths as shrouds to cover the bodies. They then stood guard over the little boy who had been eating an ice cream with his family and enjoying the marathon when the bombers struck as well as the body of the 23-year-old graduate student from China.
“Out of respect for the victims and their families,” Armstrong said recently, “we stood watch over those two kids. The deal was they were never to be left alone. And they weren’t. We stood watch through the night and well past 1 a.m. the next day.
“We stood there not so much as cops, or veterans, but as fathers. I have five children. Every one of us there that night thought but for the grace of God that could be my child, coming in to watch the marathon on a beautiful day."
He said the scene was “surreal … the worst day of my career.
“It was incredible how quickly everyone, strangers, responded to the injured. Runners who’d just done 26 miles simply stopped and jumped in. Bystanders, police officers whipped off their belts and used them as tourniquets.
“What I’ll never forget is how it wasn’t the victims who were screaming,” he said, “for the most part they were in shock. It was everybody else who couldn’t fathom what they were now in the middle of.”
The boy's parents, Bill and Denise Richard, invited Frank Armstrong to the Mass celebrating Martin’s 9th birthday and he broke down just thinking about it.
But he will be back on duty the day of the marathon this year, honoring his pledge to serve and protect. A week later he will officially retire, one of the unsung heroes of that awful day.
* Originally published in 2014.