“He’s just like me, Mama.”
Those were the words of my son when he heard about the tragic death of Martin Richard at the Boston Marathon last Monday.
In many ways — in the ways that matter to little boys — Martin was just like my son.
He was 8; he loved the Bruins and the Sox; he enjoyed riding his bike; and, like my son, Martin recently received his first Holy Communion.
And yet, my son is here — and Martin is gone.
There are no words to explain to an 8-year-old boy why he is alive, but another – just like him — is not.
Until last Monday, my son believed in the intrinsic justice and inherent order of the universe. Despite my frequent reminders that “life isn’t always fair,” he often insisted that it is — or at least that it ought to be.
But now he knows that it is not. He has lost his innocence.
Before Monday, attacks like these were images on the news. Now they are personal.
That my son did not know Martin Richard makes no difference.
When I tell him not to worry, that he is safe, my son looks at me in disbelief and says, “That’s what that boy’s mother probably told him. And then they went to the Marathon.”
Before the bombings, I had planned to take my kids into the city over school vacation. A stay-cation to see Boston and its revolutionary history, complete with a trip to the Boston Tea Party Museum and the Paul Revere house. On Wednesday, the day of our planned outing, they didn’t want to go. They were scared. But I forced them to face their fears and go into Boston as planned.
Two days later, on April 19 (the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord), my son woke to news that one bombing suspect had been killed and that a search was underway for another. For 10 minutes (an eternity for an 8-year-old), he sat transfixed by the coverage.
Then he abruptly donned his tri-corner hat, grabbed his toy rifle, and ran outside to watch men and women in Revolutionary garb on their march from Sudbury to Concord’s North Bridge (as they have for decades) to commemorate “the shot heard ’round the world.”
As I followed my son outside, I worried that it seemed frivolous to be watching a historical re-enactment while Bostonians and residents of nearby communities huddled in their homes in the midst of a massive manhunt.
But then an older Minuteman marched by and instructed my son, “Pay attention, this is important.”
And it became clear. The lesson was obvious: The fight for freedom and liberty that began more than 200 years ago still rages today.
Like Crispus Attucks, who died at the first Boston Massacre, Martin Richard will live on as a symbol of our freedom and a reminder that there are those who seek to take it away.
Terrorists may have killed Martin Richard, but they won’t stop other 8-year-old boys from following his path — celebrating life at the Marathon, at the Boston Garden, and at the North Bridge.
Martin Richard will live on in the souls of all the other 8-year-old boys celebrating their First Communions this spring.
He will live on in hearts of every 8-year-old Bruins or Sox fan.
And he will live forever in the minds of boys with tri-corner hats and pretend muskets who look at the picture of the boy in the newspaper and think, “he is just like me.”
A few days ago, I stumbled upon this beautiful poem by Edward Mulholland in the National Catholic Register and thought it was worth posting.
The New Pheidippides by Edward Mulholland
Martin Richard bleeds like Boston
Blood red socks strewn on the ground
Massacred like Crispus Attucks
Hardly time to hear the sound
Bombs, ball-bearings, flying razors
Slashed the crowd on Boylston Street
Police, officials, random strangers
Drank death’s whiskey served up neat
Missing teeth at First Communion
Martin’s smile on my TV
Tears from neighbors missing Martin
Wordless, senseless tragedy
Too young to have seen the Towers
Crumble that September blue
Not too young to take, a victim,
Shrapnel meant for me and you
Now a family’s torn asunder
Flags half staff, as Ashmont weeps,
Face the Pesky Pole at Fenway,
Silently while Martin sleeps.
Pheidippides gasped out his message
“We have won a victory”
Fell to earth. His death for many
May Martin’s death inspire many
Fighting terror to fight on
So that freedom reign forever
Faneuil Hall to Marathon!