The Boston Marathon used to be a big, famous race that captivated people and shut down major streets for a day. It’s a race that has spawned icons of the running world: Johnny Kelley, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar.
If you’re a runner, it’s just “Boston” – as in, “You running Boston this year?” It’s a race that means endless days working out and long, lonely runs on cold winter streets to get ready for that important 26.2-mile trek.
But when two bombs blew up near the finish line in 2013, the Boston Marathon became much more: images of horrible trauma and heroes running toward the chaos, a region that came together as “Boston Strong,” and a race that will always carry more meaning and memories than any other road race. Five individuals died as a result of the bombings or in the chaotic hunt for the two bombers afterward; more than 260 others were injured, with many suffering life-changing trauma.
The three people who died when the bombs went off were Martin Richard, 8, a student at Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old woman from Medford; and Lingzi Lu, a graduate student at Boston University, originally from China.
As the two bombers went on the run, they shot and killed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier as he sat in his cruiser; Boston Police Officer Dennis Simmonds sustained a head injury when one of the bombers threw an explosive device at police in Watertown during the dragnet. Simmonds did not recover and died a year later from the injury, becoming the fifth victim.
Although security at the marathon was always tight, the bombings launched a new era of precaution, widespread screening of bags, bomb-sniffing dogs, aerial surveillance and extensive intelligence sharing among police at all levels.
Sadly, the bombings also brought us the lasting image of Martin Richard, forever sporting his little-boy smile and holding a blue poster that reads “No more hurting people -- Peace,” with two hearts and a peace sign. The aftermath also meant creation of the Martin Richard Foundation (www.teammr8.org), which was established to promote education and sports in his Boston neighborhoods. Every year, more than 100 runners go the distance at the marathon to raise money for the foundation and to honor Martin’s legacy.
Thanks to the efforts of many, Martin Richard’s name has been used by many other efforts designated to help others and build communities.
In addition, Bridgewater State University established the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice “to build knowledge about social justice, empower people with skills to work for social justice, and to be an integrated catalyst for individual and collective action that advances social justice,” according to the university. The institute set up the Bridge Partnership to help underserved youth from Brockton and New Bedford through summer programs and year-round individual educational support. It established the Community Service Center to give students at the university opportunities for volunteerism and civic engagement in the Southeastern Massachusetts area and beyond. And an AmeriCorps program called “Jumpstart” was set up at the institute to help ensure every child who enters kindergarten is prepared to succeed.
And, on a level every kid can understand, the city of Boston created Martin’s Park, an accessible playground on the South Boston waterfront, next to the Children’s Museum.
Now there’s a petition drive on the website change.org asking the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations for new U.S. postage stamp designs, to support a stamp with Martin Richard’s iconic “No more hurting people” poster. The folks behind it note that it sends a positive message and doesn’t refer to the tragedy of the marathon bombing, so it’s in keeping with the standards for choosing stamp designs.
Using the simple artwork and positive message of this young boy would be a great gesture by the Postal Service. We can’t imagine a finer way to spread Martin’s message of peace – one now broadly associated with Boston’s running tradition – than to make this suggestion a reality.